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Excerpt from "How Do You Pray?"

Introduction

by Celeste Yacoboni


How do you pray? Is it an hour a week at a designated place of worship or do you take your prayers out to the streets? Do you pray like your parents, culture or tribe or have you found another way? Do you pray to God or do you have another special name or no name at all? Is it a monologue or a conversation or neither? How does your soul express itself when you are in need and how does that differ from your expression when you feel fulfilled?

Do you dance in ecstasy? Bare your soul to the divine?

Bow in gratitude? Merge with nature? Cry out for guidance?

As a minister, healer and seeker for many years, my understanding is that we are one people united in our divine source, with so many beautiful names. My calling has been to awaken others to the realization that our oneness is our greatness.

As darkness turned to light early one morning in 2008, it dawned on me that the question “How do you pray?” was to determine the direction of my life. A compelling inner voice asked me if I was prepared to bring this question to the world.

Over time, I came to feel that a book filled with people’s answers to that question, all sharing from their hearts how they pray, would be a service to anyone who seeks a richer inner life. I first asked my family, friends and mentors for their stories. They were deeply touched and willing to share. I then reached out far and wide and the responses poured in.

So deep, honest and generous are the prayers collected in these pages that I bow in gratitude to all who wrote them as well as to all of us who read and are inspired by them. The contributions in this book come from many different spiritual paths, including no path at all, but as you read them you’ll experience a sense of resonance and alignment.

Whether the essays were written by people who are religious, or ‘spiritual but not religious,’ or some other category altogether, they all share the common thread of a love for humanity. Most responses were written especially for this book, but when invited, some people really wanted to be part of it and had the perfect contribution already written and previously published. Artists and photographers sent me visual prayers, or a combination of words and images.

The way we pray provides a mirror to our soul. It reflects our most fundamental values and beliefs, hopes and dreams, fears and doubts. Prayer unifies us with ourselves and with each other by putting us in touch with the divine essence within. How Do You Pray? embodies this essence with deep personal sharing by a remarkably diverse group of people, including some of the most beloved teachers of our time. And it comes at an auspicious moment. We are giving birth to a new spirituality. We are finding the strength to leave behind beliefs that no longer serve us, all the while honoring our traditions. We are discovering a oneness that includes and celebrates our diversity. We are evolving a new perspective that integrates old and new, traditional and alternative, individual and collective. This new approach is grounded in appreciation and gratitude for all who came before us, and in responsibility and preparation for those yet to come.

How Do You Pray? is intended to offer guidance, support and inspiration. Imagine as you read the prayers of the 129 people in this book that we are all part of a prayerfield, an energetic flow of love for each other, for our Earth, and for the Divine. I suggest first reading the book straight through. The journey is transformational and you may stop and rest along the way. Then you can intuitively let the book fall open and contemplate the entry. You may sit with your favorites often, and explore and get to know those less familiar.

Brother David Steindl-Rast

Let’s start with the definition of prayer, the most classical definition that you learn in Sunday School: “the lifting up of heart and mind to God.It is not saying prayers, obviously; it is not even an action doing this or doing that. It is an attitude, an attitude of lifting up heart and mind to God. So, start the other way around and ask, What lifts up your heart and mind? What gives you a lift?”

You might say,Well, for me it’s fishing. Fishing gives me a lift.” That’s wonderful then—fishing is your primary prayer, as long as you do it in an open-hearted way. As long as you let it do something to you, rather than you grasping something with it. This is very often the case with people who go fishing. It seems to me, as I watch them sitting there fishing, that they are often just as meditative as people who sit by the Ganges River without a fishing rod. I get the impression that this fishing rod is just an excuse for sitting by the river and meditating. I wouldn’t be surprised if in many cases it was really a very deep prayer.

But there may be something else that lifts up your heart and mind to God. Whatever lifts up your heart, focus on that. Ask yourself, “How does that feel?and Why does it come about?” Very frequently it will come about because it raises in you a sense of gratefulness. If that is the case, then do whatever you do not consider prayer—what does not lift up your heart and mind to God—gratefully, or joyfully, or with an open heart, or whatever the essence of your prayer is. Then it will be prayer.

Reprinted here from How Do You Pray?: Inspiring Responses from Religious Leaders, Spiritual Guides, Healers, Activists & Other Lovers of Humanity, July 2014 by Celeste Yacoboni by permission of Monkfish Book Publishing Company, Rhinebeck, NY.

Celeste Yacoboni is passionate about helping people discover a deeper experience of the sacred in their daily lives. Ordained as a Minister of Walking Prayer by the Center for Sacred Studies, Celeste leads “How Do You Pray?” workshops in which people share and experience different ways of connecting to a Source greater than themselves. She maintains a private practice in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


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