By Terence Stone
Abiding in the here and now
“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7-8).
I suppose it depends on who is reading this passage, but the way I see it, Jesus was telling his followers to be mindful. He may not have called it that, but what other reason could he have to tell his followers to refrain from empty words. Surely, in the face of the divine, what words can truly begin to encompass or express our relationship with God?
I think Jesus’ point about prayer is that we don’t need to spend so much time telling God what we think we need, because he already knows. Rather, we need to spend the time delving into our minds and hearts to find out what it is we truly need. Maybe Jesus was telling us to take the time to be with God – the god in you. The god that permeates all things.
He urges us to find the silence within ourselves in the face of God, because in the light of the divine we see our truest self. In turn, we see the true nature of God, the true nature of our reality, and draw near the mind of Christ as the apostle Paul so aptly stated.
Speaking of Paul, he had some pretty interesting views on prayer. In 1 Corinthians 2:10, he speaks of prayer as a vehicle for our minds that “searches everything, even the depths of God.”
Sounds pretty familiar to me. It seems what they’re speaking of is what the Buddha called ‘blissfully abiding in the present moment’ – when we realize we can be no place else but here and no time else but now. In that space we see how our presence is reflected in all things, and feel the divine force that flows through all.
When we come into presence, we enter God’s presence. Then, if words are necessary, they arise naturally based on our truest intentions and needs with which we are in tune. In this way, we should pray.
Searching the depths of God, a personal account
I remember in my catholic youth, I went through a time in High school wherein I was extremely devout. I prayed constantly. I attended church daily at the school chapel. I was considering a life as a priest. You could say I was pretty serious about my religion.
In any case, after a number of months delving into the faith, I experienced a major shift in my perspective on prayer. It was late one evening and I was in a very tumultuous state. I sat praying for an hour, but none of the words were enough. I became immensely frustrated. I cursed god. I wanted answers.
I fell to weeping for a long time, still angrily praying. Finally when no more tears would come, and my mind was exhausted, I began to experience something phenomenal. As if God had placed a hand on my heart and stilled it. I felt warm, expansive and I needed no words for my prayer then. That was my first true meditation experience.
Now some argue with me that I needed to go through all the self-loathing and empty words to find that state of peace, but I disagree. We do enough of that in daily life without having to bring it into our practice. As I delve further into my Buddhist practice, I know that I can start in silence and sink deeper and deeper into that vast and beautiful abyss, which is pregnant with God.
Enriching the practice of prayer
Jesus, Buddha, Paul and countless other awakened beings have spoken of accessing the ‘divine,’ ‘true,’ and ‘god-like’ part of ourselves. Not in the same terms, because words are inadequate and we work with what we have, but the idea is the same.
Unfortunately, the scribes that set down Jesus’ words could not or would not, for one reason or another, preserve the precise practices that Jesus may have set down to realize ‘the kingdom of heaven within.’ But if you believe what I have submitted here, then looking to a meditation practice to supplement and enrich prayer could be one of the most poignant things a devout Christian could do.
Agree? Disagree? Tell me about it!
Image by Chris Tolworthy
Chief Editor and Founder of Urban Spiritual, I’m a classically trained (and training) actor and singer living in New York City, who has performed in the U.S. and Europe. I’m also a writer, traveller, meditator, arts-lover, and well-being enthusiast.