One Word Prayers

Just because I’m an old guy and I’m vulnerable to such musings,  I’ve been pondering  for six or seven months what it would take to “upgrade” my prayer life– be a better pray-er,  as it were.  Seems like a worthy quest.

One of my “spiritual fathers” was/is  Joel Goldsmith— a healer and teacher who was writing and practicing in the 1940’s,  50’s and 60’s.  When he prayed, people would be healed of tuberculosis and cancer and mortgage defaults and all manor of other in-harmonies. Goldsmith  generated so many testimonials along this line it’s hard to explain them away. He was a powerful prayer-er.  He comes from a hundred year long line or powerful prayers—mostly Christian Scientists. He called his own teaching gig The Infinite Way.

Of course, before talking about how to be a more powerful; prayer, I have to deal, at least in my own mind, with my many friends and the contemporary culture as a whole which asks,  “Pray to who? ”

As  a Buddhist -Methodists  we don’t really have to explain our prayer lives– or justify them — to anybody but ourselves.  Well, to ourselves and to Jesus and Buddha. But it’s just between us three. But the “liberal” culture is so atheistic these days I feel a need to explain myself, at least a little.  Not only atheistic but radically atheistic — which means, “I don’t believe in any God and you shouldn’t either.”  Science, as any liberal will tell you,  is the new religion and in science there isn’t room for praying.   (Speaking of liberals, I’m still of that  radical mindset  that considers “liberals” way too conservative. But that’s another story.)

But even Buddhists of various ilk’s say there’s no room for praying. (That’s why I’m a Buddhist Methodist.) So here’s the deal:  I intuit there’s a consciousness larger than my own  personal, every-day, walk-around,  time locked consciousness. Not only do I intuit it but I actually experience this larger consciousness on various sweet occasions. Such a consciousness is quite easy, free and peaceable, seemingly without borders and somehow feels much more “at home” than my hurry and scurry and get the trash out daily consciousness.

In other words, upon investigating my own daily consciousness I discovered there’s something more ancient within it.  So in answer to the question, who do l pray to,  it’s not so much a “who” as a “what.”  But this “what” is not a “thing,”   but rather a living, intelligent, aware presence that is in me but is more than  me.  Some call it the Buddha mind; some call it the Christ mind. I sometimes call it the WIGO Intelligence– the intelligence  (Intelligence)– of What Is Going One , within and without.

So for the last six or seven months or so I’ve been consciously trying to get better at praying,  which means getting better at aligning with the WIGO Intelligence. It’s been slow going, this.  Setting myself the task of “Learning how to pray better” sometimes feels like I’m swimming against the current of contemporary culture.

Over these months (and over my lifetime) I’ve had different books and teachers to help me with this work.  Joel Goldsmith, of course. But dozens of others. Top of the list these days is Rupert Spira,  Rupert Sheldrake, and of course, the Dali Lama.   Even Pope Francis (“Pilgrimage—the Search for the Real Pope Francis  , by Mark Shriver is a great intro to this new pontiff.) Another book in particular over the last six months has been Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer, by the Benedictine Monk,  David Steindl-Rast.

Although I’ve come up with, and practiced, various traditional and non-traditional prayers  over these last bunch of months, I recognized here recently that my “prayer life” was still very sporadic, very hit and miss. I do try to start the day with “tuning” into the intelligence of WIGO, and occasionally throughout the fray of the day various things will remind me of my intent to improve the quality of my prayer life, and I do try to also end the day with a certain “tuning” in,  but I’m generally just too wrapped up in my day to day affairs to do much with this “better prayer life” intention.  I’m too full of myself, I guess.

Recognizing this about myself (- maybe this is the residue left over from the Fall, as some would suggest?),  I realized I needed a much easier approach to prayer than what I’ve been using . I’m such a newbie, such a first-grader, that I need VERY SIMPLE PRAYERS. Thus, the inspiration for, and new interest in discovering and working with One Word prayers. I realized this is what I needed.

Thinking about this, the first one word prayer that I thought I should use would be,  simply, , “Thanks.”  I know this can be a sufficient prayer.  And in fact I really am grateful for WIGO (What Is Going On)  most of the time.) Not only WIGO, but TIGO– THAT it’s going on, that we have a sun and stars and winter and summer and highways and girls and boys and birds, etc. etc. etc. I’m grateful for this miracle. The simple word, remembrance, Thanks, directed at WIGO,  does help to put things in context, sometimes. But it can also be somewhat of a ritual, simply a way of being polite, rather than a heartfelt emotion.

I get caught up in the in looking at stocks and emailing and Facebook, and all the other miraculous distractions modern society presents.  So my one word “thanks” prayer is often not enough. My fallen mind is restless.  So I need a BUNCH of one word prayers, so I can use them throughout the day. (Just “thanks” is too plain, too boring, for my restless mind.)

A 5-second prayer that I have been working on, playing with for a year or more, which I offer as the “first method,” conveniently  breaks out into five different “one word” prayers. Stop, Relax, Love, (or Be) Zoom.   I was tickled to realize that each—or any– of these parts,  each of these words, was enough, at any time of the day, to  interrupt the monkey mind and help me pay better attention to WIGO.

But that monkey insists on being busy, so then I also came up with:

Listen:  Look, Feel,  Touch, Peace,  Stillness, Flow,  Wait,  Wonder.

Each of these “one word” prayers might deserve its own full day to play with, to investigate,  to experience.  (In other words, I could devote a whole day, if I was so disciplined, to using and exploring the word, “Listen,” as a one word prayer.  Or “wait,” or “wonder.”  This may be my work, my discipline, in the months ahead.

Yesterday,  coming home from the store, another one word prayer came to me: Welcome.

I realized I could “welcome” whatever it was that WIGO was offering in this moment. That’s a change of attitude,  a change of relationship with the world, which is so often encapsulated with the word, “resist.”  I  know that intensifying, cultivating and  expanding our prayer life is not the most popular thing to be doing here in our Lady Gaga world.  But if  you would like to join in with this experiment, I’d sure like to hear from you. What can I say:


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