For Jacob Winkler, written prayer can be a powerful emotional reset button, ushering in focus, compassion and even bliss.
Every day I try to sit down and write what I call Prayer and Guidance. On one hand, prayer is self-explanatory. I pour out my thoughts and feelings to the Creator. One the other hand, a lot of people can get stuck with ideas of God or prayer that they grew up with, so it’s worth expanding a little on what prayer and God mean for me.
I love the mystics of all traditions. Mystics seek God inside themselves. They want the inner experience, the feeling of God’s Presence. They talk in similar language no matter what part of the world they come from, no matter which century they lived in, no matter what names they used for God.
Generally, mystics also worship a Divinity that is All-Encompassing, a God that at least temporarily dissolves the strict boundaries between self and Other and gives one a feeling of being Whole, or “One with everything.”
For mystics, it’s this feeling or experience that is the main motivation. Everything else in life is secondary to this. So you won’t find mystics spending a lot of time praying for worldly concerns such as making a livelihood, fulfilling relationships, health, etc. Over and over again, you’ll find mystics praying something similar to the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Or even more simply: “Thy Will Be Done.”
This doesn’t mean that praying for health or relationships or financial success is wrong or that it doesn’t work. It’s just not what mystics focus on. Here’s my prayer for right now:
To Thee, O Lord, I devote my life. Guide me in Your Ways. Let me bask in Your Presence and Your Love. Guide me in serving You. In sharing Your Light with Your Children. In giving thanks. For the gift of Life. And for Your Presence. As the Source of Existence. Within my own awareness. To Thee, O Lord, I dedicate my life. To Thee, O Lord I give thanks. I give thanks, O Lord of Peace, to Thee.
I borrow language from people who inspire me. Dr. David Hawkins was an inspiration for me for several years and he would pray, “To Thee, O Lord, I devote my life.” As a mystic, he also taught that God was found within our own awareness, as the universal, impersonal, subjective feeling of being alive. Tuning into this feeling is an art and it’s easier with practice. Nisargadatta Maharaj, an Indian mystic encouraged his students to focus on the simple feeling of “I AM.” His contemporary, Ramana Maharshi taught seekers to constantly ask “Who Am I?” or “Who is the one asking the question, who is the one acting right now, who is the one writing and reading these words?”
The point is that my prayer is an expression of my yearning to find God within my own experience, to feel it. How I hope to go about that is also included in the prayer. By dedicating my life to God and to being of service to God’s Children—that is all of my brothers and sisters and my own self, I change the context of my life. At least in this moment of devotion, I’m not focusing on what I can get out of life or how I can enhance my own status in the world. I’m dedicating myself to being helpful, to taking care of people, and including my own self in that care.
Caring for myself means tending to my own emotions and moods. So I ask for gratitude. I want to be grateful for all of the blessings in my life. Even more than that, I want to be as grateful as possible for the gift of life itself. When I can remember this gratitude, then my happiness is increasingly independent of the circumstances of my life. The inevitable disappointments have a little less of a sting, when I remember that life itself is an amazing, miraculous gift.
The second part of my practice is Guidance, in which I sit and listen for an answer to my prayer. I’m simply dedicating time and being receptive. I allow whatever answer will come, trusting that it comes from an inspired place within me, my conscience, my Higher Power, perhaps even Divinity itself. This practice was a pillar of the early members of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Oxford Group that AA was based on. I suspect that most mystical poetry, books of revelation and almost all of human creative endeavor springs from a similar activity.
Here’s an example:
You are perfect. As all is perfect. In every moment. The Universe unfolds with perfection. Harmony and Order amidst Chaos and Beauty. Every life, every soul, unfolds in perfection. Growing into what it is meant to be. Lives cut short early have their own perfection. Leaves and trees and forests die in their time and new life takes their place. Peace is found in trusting. Living only to be of service as best you can. Dedicating yourself to what you can do right now to heal yourself and others. Caring for others and self-compassion are the same thing. Dedicate yourself in this moment. To the Highest within you. Whatever that may be. To your hopes and dreams for your own life. A single moment of reverence for the Light within you can illuminate your days. Give thanks and celebrate. You are blessed to be alive. You are blessed to be turning inward to God. You are so loved.
As with the prayer, the guidance I receive is often informed by the teachings and images that I’ve read and appreciated. Alan Jacobs’ translation of the Isha Upanishad begins: “All is perfect, so perfectly perfect! Whatever being lives, moves and breathes on Earth at every level from atom to galaxy is absolutely perfect in its place…”
For me, Prayer and Guidance is a powerful reset button. It brings me back to center, to acceptance, focus and compassion. Often, it gives me a feeling of bliss. Anyone can do it at any time and there are some awesome resources for developing the skill. Two that I particularly recommend are:
- Self-Centeredness Anonymous—This is a support group for anyone who wants to be less self-centered. We all could benefit from being less self-centered so this group can help all of us. The group has many phone meetings in which members listen for Guidance and share it with each other. There is also an opportunity for everyone to speak about any aspect of their life that they’re working on or struggling with, and to have the group listen without judgment.
- How To Listen To God—This is a book by Wally Paton, a researcher into the early Alcoholics Anonymous and the Oxford Group. The book is a guided tour to the practice of listening for Divine Guidance.
If you were inspired by my own Prayer and Guidance, you can receive them in your email by subscribing at my website: www.glorytothehighest.com