Sunday, October 31, 2010
Article: How to Pray
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In the broadest sense, to pray is to make a request in a humble manner. The term to pray is now often used to refer to religious prayers: to commune with a spirit or deity that you believe in. It's something that hunter-gatherers, ancient Egyptians and Greeks, and followers of today's major religions share in common. While the rituals and conventions of prayer may vary widely, the intention is the same--to renew one's spiritual connection with a power outside themselves.
Take the time to pray. No matter how you pray or who you pray to, it can be difficult to find time for prayer during busy times. One way to deal with this is to make prayer part of your daily routine, such as praying as soon as you wake up in the morning, right before you go to sleep, or before every meal. Many people also pray during emotional times, like when they feel sad, scared, or happy. You can pray at any time of day, and as much or as little as you feel is sufficient for your spiritual life. Some people make it their goal to maintain a state of prayer all the time by remaining conscious of their spiritual connection throughout the day. No matter what, if prayer is an important part of your life, you need to put first things first and make time to pray on a regular basis.
Find a good location to pray. You will find that you can pray anytime, anywhere, anyhow. It may help to be in a place where the focus is on spirituality (such as a church or temple) or where the environment reminds you of your spiritual bond (like a natural setting, or a spot with a big view). You can choose to pray in the presence of others, or you can pray privately.
Get into your prayer position. This depends on the belief you have, if any. Sometimes expressing your thoughts physically can make the experience more complete. People vary in how they position themselves during prayer: sitting, kneeling, lying down on the floor, hands folded, clasped, or raised high, holding hands with other people, head bowed, dancing, prostrating, whirling, swaying, and so on.
Prepare for praying. This also depends on belief, if any. Some activities help to get people in the mindset of prayer. Prepare in whichever way you feel is comfortable or appropriate. People do this in a variety of ways around the world, including washing, anointing with oil, ringing a bell, burning incense or paper, lighting a candle, facing a specific direction, making the sign of the cross, or fasting. Sometimes the preparation is directed by someone else, such as a spiritual friend, a group prayer leader, or a teacher of your beliefs.
Begin the prayer. You can pray by speaking out loud, thinking, singing, etc. Some prayers are recited from memory or read from a book, while other prayers are more like conversations. Your eyes can be opened or closed. You may open the prayer by calling on the God or Deity you are praying to, and asking for help.
Make the request, or ask the question. You can ask questions, seek strength, send good wishes to others, or give thanks. Perhaps the most basic forms of prayer are requests for help in becoming a good (or better) person, and requests that God direct your prayer.
End the prayer. Some people end or close the prayer with a special word (like "Amen") or phrase (like "May God receive our prayers") or a gesture (like bowing or making the sign of the cross), or simply by standing or sitting in silence for a minute or two.