When we are raised in a fundamental religion, we learn to pray. Often we kneel and bow our heads. We show reverence to the power we know as God and we implore His intercession. In the wake of what many have called the New Age, meditation has become a household word. But, does it replace prayer? Is meditation prayer? Let’s explore that idea today.
WHAT IS PRAYER
Taken straight from the dictionary, we have this explanation:
Prayer: a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship. An earnest hope or wish often connected to a religious service.
Synonyms: invocation, intercession, devotion.
When we pray, we are simply communicating our wishes, our desires to Spirit, our Higher Power, our God. We are seeking answers and, in faith, we trust we will receive our desired answer.
The late Reverend Billy Graham told us that prayer is a two-way relationship between man and God. He emphasized that in addition to asking, we need to listen for the answers that God will give. Prayer is indeed a spiritual communication between two. It is a lifetime relationship.
How do you pray? Is there a right or a wrong? As mentioned before, prayer is a form of spiritual communication. That means that we “talk” to God, The Holy Spirit, Jesus, or some other spiritual deity.
When praying, we humble ourselves before a power that is greater than we are. We show respect and give thanks, ask for guidance or forgiveness. Often we have special request for healing ourselves and others. We are seeking communication and trusting in a positive response.
WHAT IS MEDITATION
Again, we will take a look at what our dictionary tells us:
Meditation: a written or spoken discourse expressing considered thoughts on a subject.
Synonyms: contemplation, thought, thinking, reflection, prayer, concentration.
When meditating, the person seeks a calm, quiet space. They may light a candle, or set an intention, similar to a religious act of prayer. Once in the proper state of mind, it is time to be still and listen.
As in prayer, to listen is the difficult part. We live in a very active world. Everyone is on a time schedule and rushing. Stress is high, disease is rampant. To be still and listen is a challenge to most.
When we look at the synonyms of meditation, we see that prayer is listed. So to some, meditation is actually a form or prayer. With the act of prayer being removed from our schools and public events, generations have lost the quiet inner experience that is most important to the very nourishment of our spirit.
In our stressful world, our senses often become dulled. Meditation offers time for relaxation and heightened awareness. The practice of meditation offers a chance to improve physical well being, as well as emotional health.
Is there a right way to meditate? Meditation, like prayer, is very personal. Many different styles have been brought to our attention, but there is no right way, only your way. Try out different ways till you find what suits you best.
With that said, I will say, there are two categories of meditation: Guided and Self-Guided. Obviously, the guided meditation has someone walking you through the steps while you relax and move into the deeper levels of consciousness seeking your answers. Here is a short, very short, list of different styles of meditation.
- Loving-kindness meditation. (focus on receiving love then sending it out to the world)
- Progressive relaxation (often called Body Scan … looking for areas of tension)
- Mindfulness meditation (being aware of the now moment, leaving the past and present)
- Zen (a more formal meditation based on the teaching of Spiritual Monks)
- Transcendental Meditation (referred to as TM … transcending above your current state of being)
Meditation is a form of discipline that seeks to calm the mind so one can gain the wisdom and answers needed. You might even begin your meditation with a prayer asking the Holy spirit for guidance and freedom from distractions.
While we can see many similarities between prayer and meditation, they are different. Prayer may produce a meditative mood, however, it is a directed activity as you call upon God or another Spiritual deity for assistance or intervention.
When in meditation, we are seeking a calmness, a quiet mind, in order to reach our inner being. Meditation can bring us an awareness we are seeking for our personal and spiritual growth.
What do you see when you think “Praying”? What do you see when you think “Meditation”? The images we hold are based on our belief systems and our experiences. I do believe, we are using similar techniques, and perhaps one is expanding the other, as time begins to blend these two forms of spiritual communication. Somewhere in the mix, we are definitely asking and receiving. As in prayer and in meditation, if we “sit and be still”, the messages will come when we listen!
In silent inner communion, with a mantra-like repetition of religious words, prayer blends into meditation. For instance, the use of prayer beads or a rosary, create a meditative mood of repetition. The religious prayer/phrase is used in the manner of a mantra which is a focal point for meditation.
Is meditation prayer? You might begin to see that meditation is a form of prayer, as you might begin to see that prayer is a form of meditation. They may not be equal at all times, but they are not completely separate forms of communication.
It is really what the spiritual intent is within the practice. If you have never tried to meditate, don’t fear it as some New Age Woo Woo. It is indeed a great way to seek answers and to calm your state of being. Prayer is the same. If you have never tried to pray because you aren’t “A Religious Person”, don’t fear it as this form of communication is just between two. Then, sit, be still, and listen.