Meditation is a practice that has been embraced for centuries in Eastern cultures, largely based on concepts originating from Hinduism and Buddhism.
In recent years, the practice of meditation has gained ground in Western cultures, merging with Western Judeo-Christian concepts of meditation and contemplation, as well as more modern exercises in mindfulness.
Many look to meditation as a way to relax, de-stress, reduce anxiety, connect with themselves, connect with the universe, and ultimately find peace. Recent scientific studies have investigated meditation as a practice to reduce stress, anxiety, inflammation, depression, and improve cognition.
I’ve recently become a convert to practices of mindfulness and meditation (see If You Pray but Don’t Meditate, You Might be Missing Out). However, I’ve found there’s a combination practice that exponentially increases the effectiveness of meditation.
That practice is personal prayer.
What is Prayer?
Most people believe in a Supreme Being even though they may call him by different names. Allah, God, Father, Jehovah, All-Glorious, Bhagavan, the Universe.
Perhaps Henry Eyring, a world-renowned 20th century chemist, expressed it best:
I worship the wisest being in the universe. I know there is such a being. How could there not be? People are different in understanding, and there are lots of them. There must be one who is the smartest.
Would you like to connect with the wisest being in the universe?
Meditation is a way to connect with yourself and to connect with the universe. Prayer is a way to connect yourself with the creator of the universe.
How to Pray
To the meditation newcomer, the process of meditating can seem complex. There are ways to sit, stand, think, breathe. However, those who have practiced meditation recognize that the ultimate goal is common, consistent, and simple: Quiet the mind and become intentional in your thinking.
Prayer can be intimidating to a newcomer as well. Among religions of the world, there are special clothes, postures, and words used. There are times to pray, and certain prayers to be said. It can feel complex to an outsider.
There are many rituals that surround prayer to help prepare the body, mind, and spirit. However, prayer itself is very simple. The ultimate goal is common, consistent, and simple. I give a simple formula to prayer with one step:
Step 1: Talk to God
That’s it. If you can talk to a friend, share a thought with a loved one, or write a letter to a parent, you can pray.
I like to imagine speaking with a wise parent. You may want to imagine speaking to someone you love and respect.
There are many things you can say during prayer. For example, gratitude and acknowledgment are important elements of prayer. However, the most important aspect is speaking candidly.
Put aside any feelings of unworthiness or shame, fear, or guilt. A loving Being is willing to help you through problems. You won’t be judged because you are a human being and have problems.
Now that we’ve discussed the What and the How, here are 4 reasons why you should add prayer to your daily routine.
1. Pray to engage yourself for the day
There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation to all things
Meditation helps you calm the mind chatter that distracts you from your purpose.
Prayer lets you talk to God about your purpose in the new day.
Each day is a brand new creative process. It’s a blank slate. A chance to start everything anew. While you begin the creative process, you can engage the great Creative One of the universe to help you begin your day.
A good way to start the creative process is by recognizing what has already been created in your life. By first praying with gratitude you’ll better recognize the good things that have already happened in your life. This will increase the chances that you will notice the good things that happen during your day. This lets you live your life in the Gain and not the Gap.
When I engage in daily prayer, I like to pull out a journal and write down a few thoughts of what I am grateful for. I also write down my goals and what needs to happen for the day. Then, when I pray, I can engage with God in the creative process for my day.
It is amazing to see ideas and plans that I thought and prayed about in the morning unfold during the day. It is empowering to see how I can join with the great Creator and make a great day happen.
You can do this, too. You can do it every day.
2. Pray to tap into a higher power
Interdependence is a far more mature, more advanced concept.
— Stephen Covey
Most of us live trying to do it on our own. We are independent and self-sufficient. We get it done. But sometimes we run ourselves ragged!
Meditation helps to calm, focus, and prioritize. It helps us recharge. It helps to channel the power within ourselves.
Adding prayer allows to extend our own power by tapping into a higher power.
The greatest power in business, society, and relationships is not independence — doing it on our own. The greatest power is interdependence — succeeding with others. As Stephen Covey stated,
Interdependence is a far more mature, more advanced concept.
If I am physically interdependent, I am self-reliant and capable, but I also realize that you and I working together can accomplish far more than, even at my best, I could accomplish alone.
If I am emotionally interdependent, I derive a great sense of worth within myself, but I also recognize the need for love, for giving, and for receiving love from others.
If I am intellectually interdependent, I realize that I need the best thinking of other people to join with my own
Being spiritually independent, you can have a great sense of empowerment and self-worth. You can feel peace and purpose. By being spiritually interdependent with others, you can gain a far greater sense of spiritual purpose and understanding than you could on your own.
By being spiritually interdependent with God, you can tap into a far greater spiritual power than your own. You can gain a far greater purpose than what you can see.
This power is accessible through prayer.
By talking to God daily, you can begin to see how your life fits in the bigger picture. You are not just a lone operator struggling to get through life. You are a part of something bigger and grander than you could have ever imagined.
It’s like climbing to the peak of a mountain after you’ve been hanging around on the foothills. The view is much greater at the top.
At times when I pray, I get a sense of something bigger than myself, something I’m a part of. I also get glimpse of the potential of other people. Some of my greatest moments are praying with my wife or children and realizing the tremendous potential they have within themselves.
Don’t stay down in the foothills. Tap into the higher power that prayer offers.
3. You get answers to your requests
Meditation allows you to calm your subconscious and tap into your inner being. As the saying goes (often attributed to Thomas Edison),
Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.
Mindfulness and meditation allow you to tap into what your subconscious has to offer you.
Prayer adds to that power by allowing you to put in a request to God and see what he has to offer you.
Tapping into the power of the Supreme Being allows you to not only find peace and purpose, but you can get specific help for the day.
Now, most people talk too much and listen too little. My one, simple step to prayer needs a slight addition. There is a second, powerful step:
Step 2: Listen
How do you listen to God?
When you listen, you quiet your mind. Make your mind a blank page, a clear slate.
It’s not an audible voice you will listen for. You will instead find that thoughts come into your mind to say or do things — often to help others. If the thoughts are good, follow them. You will find that God answers your prayers.
Even more importantly, you will find that you become the answer to others’ prayers.
I once had an experience after prayer where I had a thought to go visit a certain friend. I had a lot of excuses to not visit. This friend was visually impaired and living in public subsidized housing 30 minutes away from me. It was a secured building, so you had to call first to have a resident let you in the building. My friend had changed phone numbers recently, and I didn’t have his new number. I would likely go the building, not be able to get in, and have no way to contact my friend.
But I felt good about my thought, and I had learned to follow those thoughts.
It was an early Saturday morning and quiet in the city. I had no idea how things would turn out, but I trusted in prayer and trusted in God.
I showed up at the building and there happened to be a resident waiting by the door. I said I was there to visit a friend. The resident let me in.
I found my way to my friend’s room and he was there and let me in. We chatted, reconnected, and I found out about some of his recent struggles. I got his new phone number and we agreed to stay in touch.
Just a week later he had a serious medical emergency. He called me and I was able to help him with his emergency, help him get medical attention, and help him navigate through some subsequent changes that happened in his life.
Had I not gone at the time I did, I wouldn’t have been available to help him through a crisis, and I likely would have lost touch with him permanently.
But I did listen, and we are still friends today.
You can pray and get the answers you need. You can pray and be the answer others need.
4. You can feel incredibly loved
All the light and love inside of me reaches out to all the light and love inside of you.
A certain guided meditation I listened to ended with the phrase above.
What an incredible way to live! We should feel the light and love inside each of us. We should let that light emanate outward. And we should feel the light and love from others.
However, we don’t have to stop with ourselves.
Prayer is a conduit to allow us to feel the light and love of God. That powerful love can fill our hungry souls.
Sometimes when we pray, the thing we need the most is to feel loved.
I invite you to ask God the following: Do you love me, just the way I am?
You can feel loved and accepted just for who you are. That doesn’t mean God doesn’t have better plans for you, but he’s right with you, right where you are. He will walk with you on your continued journey.
Many people go to great lengths to find purpose, love, and acceptance in their lives. But you can find this right now through prayer. And then you can share it with others.
This is my favorite part of prayer. This is how I know that it works. I feel a love from outside myself fill my being with light and truth.
You can, too.
For more insight on prayer:
I daily read from the Bible and the Book of Mormon and they connect me to God. They teach that you can pray anywhere about all kinds of important things. Many of you have probably read some passages from the Bible, but you probably haven’t read from the Book of Mormon.
I challenge you to check out this article I wrote to find out why you should read from the Book of Mormon, too.