More and more I experience prayer as a form of attention, not paid but given, and largely without a subject. It is a recognition that what I am in truth is not separate from God, and that confirmation of this fact can be glimpsed and known even within the welter of illusions that appear to surround and define me.
This is not to say that vocal prayer or any other form of structured prayer is bad. I am not saying that. Falling to one’s knees and asking for help, or offering up a heartfelt “why?” in the face of strife, or simply uttering “thank you” at day’s end is a good thing. It reflects faith and willingness.
At the same time, one begins to experience God – or sense God – as not a separated and distant entity or energy form but an internal presence. When I come back from my morning walk, the sun just rising behind me, I often stop at study the flower garden which for the most part now grows dull and sags. It is beautiful still, in the way of things which graciously accept and lean into the end of physical form, and I deeply grateful for it. Standing before it wordlessly and not really needing it to be other than it is right now I experience God as here. The lines and circles of which reality seems to be composed shift and loosen and one glimpses without any real effort or need the Love beyond.
When we accept the idea that God is a present reality from which we are not removed, prayer adjusts itself accordingly.
Prayer has no beginning and no end. It is a part of life But it does change in form, and grow with learning until it reaches its formless state, and fuses into total contemplation with God (S-1.II.1:1-3).
If salvation is truly a recognition that “what was never true not true now, and never will be” (T-31.I.1:2) then what effort is required of us? We don’t have to dismantle the world, or rearrange our lives to be more spiritual or prayerful, or find new friends, or the right edition of A Course in Miracles.
We need to simply give ourselves to what is. It is there waiting and asks nothing but that we be willing to see it in place of the illusions we have raised to block and entangle it.
Heaven is Given. God is here now.
If we give attention to this truth – even if we doubt it, even if we are not yet glimpsing intimations of it – then it will dawn on us. Our attention to it is the gift.
Sometimes we are like children – well-intentioned but still deeply confused – who walk into a room filled with presents and say “where are the presents?”
Thomas Merton wrote very beautifully in Contemplative Prayer about the importance of allowing the Holy Spirit room in which to act. When we do, prayer – and life generally – become less and less about ends that we have chosen and more towards acceptance of “another way.”
[I]nstead of being directed towards ends we have chosen ourselves, instead of being measured by the profit and pleasure we judge they will produce, they are more and more directed to an obedient and cooperative submission to grace, which implies first of all an increasingly attentive and receptive attitude toward the hidden action of the Holy Spirit (41).
Rather than do and do more and do differently, why not simply give attention to what is – right now – in this moment?
When we do that, we discover first that the present – what A Course in Miracles calls the Holy Instant (T-15.I.7:5) – is sufficient unto itself. It needs nothing to be itself but what is already present. And we are whole within it. We encounter perfection.
The Holy Instant – which we drift in and away from – always begets a deeper capacity for stillness. In stillness, our awareness naturally expands. It is prayerful in a full and vital way.
Tara Singh talked about this in The Voice that Precedes Thought, calling on students to become grateful for the presence of God, and the simplicity of salvation.
So, come to simplicity
Do not look for saints outside of yourself.
You become the saint
for indeed you are a saint.
. . .
Gratefulness is an awareness
in which we see what is ever present
and ever manifesting.
It is a state of being.
It includes all of humanity.
Gratefulness is the expression
of light within . . .
Rather than ask for God to come to us, can we begin to practice accepting that God is within us? That the separation never occurred? That our experience of being bodies in the world both forever subject to change and death is a smokescreen hiding a more glorious truth?
It is true that for most of us the light comes on slowly. An Emily Dickinson poem, the sound of leaves falling at midnight, moonlight on snow, a handwritten note from a child, a stranger’s kind glance or assistance.
But can we begin to see what lies beyond the form of those kindnesses, those moments of beauty? The pure stillness of love – Life everlasting – that is our inheritance because it is what we are?
That which is sacred is here. We are already whole and holy. Let prayer be the means by which we become aware of this deep truth about ourselves – and the means by which it radiates.