Learning prayer : Inspired by Praying with Body and Soul by Jane Vennard

How I Pray

When I think of the format of a pray, I think of how a ritual is created. First, I ground myself and clear my mind in order for my highest voice to emerge. Then, I acknowledge the sacred place and time. I invoke the energies I want to speak to such as the Goddess, Divine love, etc depending on my currents needs or temperament. Then, I simply speak from the heart, my most urgent desire or gratitude. However, prayer often comes to me without  planning or structure. There are times when I simply close eyes and  words pouring out as if I am a vessel. I often wonder if I am talking to the Divine or is  Divine talking to and through me. Mostly, prayer is my way of letting go of barriers and letting my natural wisdom flow through.

My Definition of Prayer

Prayer  is a creative expression of  one’s connection to their inner spirit, their world and the Divine.  I use prayer to get to know myself again.Prayer reminds where my passions are, where my fear lies and the places within me that are longing to be healed. Prayer helps me to come out of hiding to face my demons, wounds and seemingly hopeless dreams. There is a feeling that this is between me and “God” therefore I am free to be fully me. It was the descriptions of a nonjudgmental God in Praying with Body and Soul that challenges me to use prayer as a fearless gateway to self honesty. Jane Vennard states about her own practice that, “ Prayer has become for me the practice of bringing all of who I have been, all of who I am, and all of who I am becoming into relationship with God.” (2)  Her words removes the secrecy and shame from faith and allows prayer to finally be real. In this way, prayer becomes about true love. We, not only, give ourselves completely to the Divine, we also remove our masks  learn to love ourselves through that union.

Prayer can center us in a way that we developed the capacity to send our compassion out into the world. Through prayer we are reminded of the interdependence of life and  the blessings of  our world.  We remember that we are all God’s children or we are all the Goddess. It is through this realization that many of us develop a longing help ease the suffering of others and come into communion with our world. Vennard highlights interdependence of our world by recounting an praying exercise that challenged her group to say “ that is God” is every situation. That story reminds me of one of my favorite prayers from a the Wiccan book:  The Circle Within by Dianne Sylvan:

“Thou art Goddess

Thou art God

 I grant you from a place of love

 I will honor us both

We breath the same air,

we the same pains,

 do are best with what we know.

 It will honor us both.

Thou art Goddess.

Thou art God.

 As am I, As are we all.” (176)

Here prayer is use in a way that allows us to engage more deeply in the world with others. I see prayer now as a tool for courage. When I am able to see everything as Divine, everything with purpose and know that I have the Goddess within, then I am more readily able to face tough situations and people. Also, when I realize that Divinity of people and creatures through I am called to service. As  Jane Vennard asserts, “ Service becomes prayer when we serve our sisters and  brothers  with love and compassion that comes from God.” (108 ) What I appreciate most about Jane Vennard is that she believes that service is prayer. She believes that prayer is not simply speaking or being quiet but also action, moving and living. I completely agree that prayer should have no creative limits. After all, there are times when I express myself with dance, yoga, through crying, screaming and laughing. There are times when talking is not enough and words will not express my joy or pain.

            The area where Vennard and I may differ is on the definition of the Divine. While she uses prayer to bring herself “into relationship with God.” (2). I pray to bring myself into relationship with everything. I believe that people can define the Divine as they see fit. The Divine is whatever makes as feel whole, balanced and fully union in my mind, body, soul and in the world. The Divine can be God, Goddess, nature, music, dance,etc. The Divine is unlimited therefore prayer for me is an art that allows me express the endless possibilities of a human life and spirit. I also believe prayer can be about communicating with the within, the without or both. A person who does not believe in outside entities can still pray for their own natural healing or  pray to their own inner wisdom.  For example,  A Book of  Pagan prayer offers a simple pray to geese for healing:

“Wild Geese  flying overhead on journey south, bear  away with you on your thundering  wings the cares  that have made  my summer weary. Cry out my pain,passing over  the darkened land,until the air  ocean you sail  washes  it away.” (172) This prayer does not use any lofty supernatural beings. It suggests that we can find spirituality in the moment and in everything.  Prayer can be an avenue to embrace the wonders of everyday existence, and loving all that is around us and within us. In this way  prayer, no matter who it is addressed to, is about seeing and experiencing the Divine qualities of our own being.

Through out this process of praying and reading Vennard’s book, I have learned to accept my whole self. I have learned that my spiritual being includes more than my sweet side. My spiritual self is no longer separate from my anger, my activism or my silliness. I have learned that prayer is about unifying all the part of one self and offering your wholeness to your world and the Divine. Prayer is an art of courage that invites the universe to look into the deepest depths of our being.