Prayer or Meditation - Or the Perfect Combination?
Prayer and meditation are both ways we can connect to the divine within, leading us to a more peaceful and fulfilling life.
Though many believe it’s an either-or situation, where one is practiced only by the religious and the other by those seekers who aren’t attached to a specific religion, that’s actually not the case.
Prayer and meditation aren’t mutually exclusive. Neither needs to be attached to a specific religion and, at the same time, many who do follow a specific religion or spiritual practice use both. Prayer and meditation don't discriminate.
In fact, when we practice prayer and meditation together, we up our game by more quickly developing the space within ourselves where we’re open to receiving more grace and miracles.
Let’s take a brief look at each of these practices, how they work alone, and how we can use them together to help us experience life with more peace, harmony, and acceptance.
We’ll start with prayer.
When we’re in prayer, we’re talking with a higher power of our own understanding. It could be God, Universe, Spirit, The Divine - or something else. I was raised in a Catholic family, so, for me, it’s usually God, though I address Spirit and Universe as well.
Many people pray often, yet they wonder why their prayers “aren’t working.” They just don’t get why they don’t seem to yield the results they desire.
The reason for this could be that they don’t have the most effective approach when it comes to prayer.
Examples of less effective prayers include those that feel forced or more dramatic, such as pleading or bargaining with your higher power.
Been there, done that. It just doesn’t work.
On the other hand, prayers where you ask your higher power to guide you to a better way of being (such as prayers for wisdom, courage, forgiveness, acceptance, healing, or gratitude), prayers asking how to best be of service, and prayers where you surrender to your higher power, asking for what is of the highest good for all, are much more effective and powerful prayers.
An example I’ve found of a beautiful prayer for when you’re feeling a sense of lack or when you want more abundance in your life comes from Kyle Gray, who shares:
Thank you for showing me how to live a life of service in a way that supports my wellbeing and happiness. I am willing to serve and be served."
Let’s move on to meditation.
Whereas with prayer we’re addressing our higher power in more of an outgoing message type of way, when we meditate, we’re moving our attention inward.
As mindfulness and meditation expert Dr. Deepak Chopra says, the real purpose of meditation isn’t to tune out and get away from it all; it’s actually to tune in and get in touch with it all.
For example, we do reduce our levels of stress and anxiety through meditation, but we don’t do it by evading or covering up our feelings. We don’t enter meditation to escape.
Simply put, we do it by acknowledging what’s there from a viewpoint of curiosity. We bring it into the light, we bless it, and we allow it to pass. We do it by accessing the place of pure peace that exists within ourselves.
In meditation, we get into the space between our thoughts, which Dr. Chopra calls the window to the infinite mind. This, he says, is “the mystery that some people call the spirit or God.”
This space is pure consciousness, a field of infinite possibilities. Dr. Chopra adds that it’s in this space between thoughts that intention is very powerful and orchestrates its own fulfillment.
We go into this space between thoughts so we can access infinite possibilities, creativity, and the power of intention. And that, Dr. Chopra says, is what meditation is really about.
When you’re meditating, especially at first, you’ll likely have a lot of thoughts pop up. When this happens, you might think you’re not accessing the space between your thoughts. Know that you are, even if you think the spaces are too small to be of any benefit. The more you practice, the less often thoughts will seem to hijack your meditation. That being said, having some thoughts is normal during meditation.
Now, let’s take a look at how we can join prayer and meditation into one practice.
I’ll use Kyle Gray’s prayer mentioned above as a model for this example.
Starting with my prayer, based on Kyle’s model, I’ll use God in place of the Universe as my higher power:
Thank you for showing me how to use the gifts and talents you’ve given me in service to others in a way that supports my happiness, wellbeing, and sense of fulfillment. I am willing to serve and receive.
Immediately upon praying, I’ll spend some time in meditation or quiet contemplation.
I may decide to silently repeat a mantra, such as “thank you,” as I follow my breath in and out.
Or, I may just notice where I feel my breath most prevalent at the moment – such as my nostrils, abdomen, or chest – and focus my attention there, following the breath as it moves in and out.
I may even choose to notice the space where the inhale ends and the exhale begins, and vice versa.
I’ll stay in meditation for at least 10-15 minutes.
Some helpful tips:
Before starting your prayer, you may choose to play some soft, inspiring music in the background and set a soft-bell timer for 15 minutes, signaling the end of your meditation.
Whether you pray, meditate, or do both, know that contributing beyond ourselves - being of service to others - is a powerful human need. It’s a need of the soul.
When we include the whole of humanity in our prayer and bring this into our meditation, we’re setting ourselves up to satisfy that strong need of the spirit - and we feel fulfilled.