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Excerpt from "The Prayer Chest"

Prayer That Works

by August Gold and Joel Fotinos

Is prayer old-fashioned? Even irrelevant? In our world of immediate gratification, where anything we want is one click away, what do we need to pray for anyway? Many people wonder if there is a place for prayer in the modern world. After all, what can't we get from, the internet, self-help books, television evangelists, super stores, an iPhone app, or E-bay? Prayer doesn't appear to give us the same instant gratification that, say, Google does. We don't get our answers to our prayers delivered directly to our front door via Amazon Prime, second day air for no extra charge.

In fact, in this hurried world, prayer is usually the last thing we turn to when life gets hard. Make no mistake; even with all of today's modern conveniences, life does continue to be difficult for many people. You might think prayer would be the first place most people would turn during these turbulent times, but prayer usually runs a distant "last place" to things like desperation, worry, fear, panic, and pleading. We often would rather beg than to turn to prayer for help.

Why? We have found that while most people turn to prayer at one point or another –usually as the very last resort – when they do, they often feel one of two things: either they don't know how to pray, or they don't know if they are praying correctly.

And yet, despite all our modern conveniences and opportunities (or perhaps because of them), many people feel disconnected, disinterested, and disengaged from their own lives. Our workshops, talks, and classes are filled with high-achieving people who wonder who they are, why they are here, and what they should do next. They want business plans, life coaching, mentoring, two-minute solutions, seven easy steps or a magic pill – anything but prayer.

What they discover, however, and why they end up in our classes is this: there comes a point when none of those other things work, and they don't know what to do next. That's when they finally realize that they have no other choice but to pray, even when they don't know what it means, or why, or how. Everybody lands in this place eventually.

The act of prayer is to remind us that we are divinely created. In our book The Prayer Chest, which was just released in a new paperback edition, we talk about how praying can be a tool to remember who you truly are, that each of us (as virtually all sacred texts tell us) is wondrously made. In this remembering we also remember our dreams, our joys, and we realize our destiny.

Our experience has taught us that effective prayer that is, prayer that works is actually quite a bit different than what many people think. Instead of praying to a God outside of us (usually an old man who resembles Santa Claus), true prayer is a form of going within. When we pray in this way, we learn three important principles.

  1. Our prayers are answered through us. Prayers aren't answered by some distant godly being who keeps a scorecard; prayer comes to us through our own acceptance.
  2. Prayer is answered when you listen. Many people want to talk through the prayer, but the art of prayer involves deep listening to our soul's still small voice.
  3. Our prayers are answered when we welcome everything. Often, the process of our prayer being answered causes shifts in our lives; resisting the shifts delays the answer to our prayer.

These principles of prayer are not like magical incantations that conjure up exactly what we want, when we want it. Instead, these principles, which are inspired by time-honored sacred wisdom, put the power of the prayer back where our power has always been: within. Life has a way of telling us when we are on the wrong track. Prayer is the way back to remembering who we are and why we are here in the first place. Prayer, then, becomes a powerful way of listening to our lives, hearing that still small voice within.

This is not a treatise about not having "things" -- it's about prioritizing. When we put “things” first, we miss the point. Until we know who we are and why we are here, we'll spend all our time trying to get anything that will fill up the hole -- when prayer simply reminds us of the wholeness that we already are. True prayer reveals to us that it’s not that we ask for too much, it’s that we ask for too little. We’re asking for “stuff,” and Life wants to give us our destiny.

When we understand what prayer really does, which is to connect us with our true selves, it will provide the foundation for happiness and fulfillment that no amount of accumulation of things can provide.

# # #

August Gold and Joel Fotinos are the co-authors several books including The Prayer Chest: A Tale about the Power of Faith, Community, and Love, which was just released in paperback. They also are the cofounders of Sacred Center New York. Visit them online at http://www.theprayerchest.net.

# # #

Based on the book The Prayer Chest © 2011 by August Gold and Joel Fotinos. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com

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