December 1998……..a few days before Christmas,I felt like a lost sheep who had come back from working in Saudi Arabia,jobless,broken, depressed,in severe physical bodily pains and financially broke…………..with my heart wide opened and humbled and surrendered…….I sat in Saint Anthony’s church,Vancouver quietly praying after I had attended an evening Mass.In my prayer that evening….…my heart implored!
I remembered asking sincerely,”give me something to do!”( I was not asking to have a job or to be healed of my pains or anything to help my finances…….(I knew it was not the right thing to ask at that time),but what I actually wanted was to be of service,for my heart and talents to be utilised..…
I surrendered that prayer and was walking out the church when at the door I was approached by a choir member who was looking for singers for Christmas day morning Mass(which was only maybe 3 days away)….I said,”I dont sing but I play the guitar”…she said “thats what we really need is a guitarist for the choir”…..and asked if I wanted to give my time to play for Christmas and on a regular basis……..I said yes but I didnt have a guitar at that moment for practice…….she said she could get one………and there I was practising with the organist and choir………..then I remembered my prayer to be of service.
Yes I was honored and played my guitar happily for that Christmas Morn,1998!
I was not satisfied simply with playing the guitar for Mass, I knew there was more of my heart that could be used….so I kept on asking in my dedicated self prayer petitions and quiet sittings in the austeriy of the church………one week later just before the New year(1999)…I saw a poster on the church door which read…….’The Door is open’,volunteers needed for soup kitchen to feed the needy.”I immediately felt a bell ring in my heart and went home to give them a phone call……..…
A few days later,I started humbly in the soup kitchen,serving the poorest of the poor,the uncared for,the forgotten and the diseased(HIV/Aids).As I served them, I looked through their eyes and hearts and felt their suffering and I saw myself in each one,I witnessed myself looking at each one with tenderness and respect…we shared the same suffering but in a different picture,a different scenario….each one of them needed love and happiness and to be cared for… and I realised too that I needed the same.I noticed my heart opening with compassion and kindness and a reaching out to love…….that reaching out was not only to them but towards myself…….I needed to love myself ,I needed to care and nurture for my damaged soul,the damage only I myself could undo and make reparation for.
One day I brought my guitar along to the soup kitchen and sang a few songs for them while they ate,to hopefully bring some music and comfort for their troubled souls…..
A few months later after serving the soup kitchen,I then went on to walk on the streets of Eastside Vancouver for the downtrodden,prostitutes,heavy hardcore drug users and those forgotten by society,there my own broken-ness was further healed by the horrible suffering I witnessed,my body pains began to vanish,I got a job as a RN in a rehabilitation hospital and worked hard at it, my true spiritual journey began.I stayed on in the choir for one more year and later donated my guitar to the Sisters of the Good Shepherd(Toronto)……………I had to learn when to give up and let go of everything I enjoyed and loved as soon as I learned that whatever I needed to do was done…..I allowed myself to feel all emotional attachments and then to let it go,it is a way of the so called dying to ego,to self glory and gains…..just as the Buddha had said…….”when we have crossed the river using the raft we had built,we let go of the raft,we do not lug it around onwards in our journey.”
Prayer will help open the door to the next realm needed for us to do whatever is necessary for our own healing processes.It is the raft that will help us cross the river of our lives and help us grow,change and evolve for a higher purpose.When we pray,we not only express out words in our minds and hearts but we become aware of everything happening within us and around us because every corner of our being and surrounding is calling for attention and warrants us to stop and see how we could be of service to self and others….we need to see and put in action what the Universe(God, Divine Source,Allah, Atman etc.) calls us to do…it might be a simple matter as being more attentive,kindly and caring to people we say we care,our spouses,children,mothers/fathers,brothers/sisters,friends,etc….and when we see ourselves care more towards others, we can acknowledge the goodness that resides within us.We can then say our prayers have been answered!
Prayer helps us to keep vigilant of our inner states!
I said a prayer………………..
May your mind be calm and peaceful
May you always be safe and guided to safety in your human travels
May your path be protected
May you be healed from all affictions
May you find joy and contentment in daily life.
Praying is such a simple charity we can offer to ourselves and others……
When we are about to sit or undertake an exam…..we might say a prayer asking to pass the test,but if we have not made any effort to prepare and study for that endeavour,how are we to pass the test?….perhaps we might!
There is a saying….’be careful what you pray for,it might come true!”…..why is this said…..can we undertake the commitment and responsibilities of change and making way for the new and keeping our word and integrity to living a renewed life after receiving the favours we prayed for? Eg……in desperation,we pray,ask and promise to change our unhealthy ways if our loved one recovered from an illness……..and if they did recover,will we keep the promise to change?
Likewise the Buddha said…..in order to cross a river,we have to find the wood to build a raft first………he also said, once we have crossed the river……we discard the raft,otherwise we would be carrying unnecessary burden dragging the raft along the way!So too is prayer like a raft to help us cross each river, lake and sea on our human journey.
To say a prayer is not reserved for people with any traditional religious background, neither do we need to go to a church,temple or mosque to pray.We do not have to be religious or spiritually inclined to pray.The truth is that we all as sentient beings at some point or on a daily basis in our lives do pray,and do pray in earnest.
We usually pray when we need something,some boons,when we go thru a difficult time,when we see loved ones struggling with challenges,when we are plagued by obsessions of a disturbed mind,we do pray also for others we do not know who we witness going thru natural disasters of sorts thru the media or by word of mouth.We do hear of people asking for prayers and we do seem to respond.We might even see on the media of the President of a country or a high profile statesman asking for a few minutes of silent prayer for victims of violence and terrorism and natural disasters.So yes,prayer is very much the thing people do in times of crisis.
But do we only pray in times of challenges and difficulties and depressing moments?
When we hear of someone’s plight or distress(it could be someone we may not like or even a stranger),we notice,an immediate reaction in our thoughts,in our being and a twinge in our hearts……we find ourselves silently responding with a thoughtful wish for the afflicted person/people to be well.That spontaneous twinge of concern might be a feeling of sadness or a fear,a fear of our own perhaps,that that distress could also be ours in reality?
But why do we only seem to go in prayer in times of need and not in happy/joyous moments?Because it seems that prayer is likened to a lighted candle to only help brighten a dark room so as to help us see where we are trudging along…so while we are in elevated mood….prayer doesn’t seem to be necessary or be a given priority.
Even when things in life seem to be smooth sailing, we need the constant practise of prayer to keep us focused and aware without being side-tracked and distracted so that we don’t be caught off guard when things take an unpleasant turn around and we loose our balance and fall.
Does prayer really work,does it help create miracles/changes…….?
When we pray,it is better to not ask for any favours,or to expect that our prayers be answered but rather pray for the strength and courage to face any given circumstances and to be grateful for whatever outcome…….to accept it to be the greatest good for all to learn,grow and evolve.Yes, when we pray the only miracle we would expect to witness is to see ourselves making positive and healthy changes within and without.
When we have offered a prayer intention, we have sent it out to the Universe(God,Higher Power,Allah,Jehovah,etc.)and we learn patience, trust and let it be………..
To some people to use the word prayer/ praying might be something shameful or unknown for them to do,for others they feel it doesnt work and totally disbelief in its efficacy.We might often hear people saying these phrases……”I prayed so hard but yet my loved one passed away of…..”…….”I prayed so hard but still lost my job”……..”I prayed and prayed for my child to get out of drugs but he died of an overdose”…..and we will hear more of people who have attested to praying but have not had their prayers answered!And therefore we pray to find strength to accept all circumstances that we don’t and cannot have the power to be in control of……..
On the other hand,there are occassions where people have testified that their prayers were answered and it seems like a miracle had happened! But do we continue in sincere devotion to praying or remember to give thanks and strive to make our lives a miracle itself to be a blessing to self and others,or do we very quickly forget the gift and enthusiasm of that miracle and turn cold again and go back to our reckless unwholesome ways?
What is prayer/praying about?Prayer is a mental and heartfelt comunication we make either saying out loud or in quietutde.It is a willingness to surrender,to learn to trust,to have faith and be open to whatever may be! It is usually a wish,a good and kindly intention asking for help,comfort and to open the path for hope for ourselves or for others.Prayer is also thought of as a pleading or an intercession from an external Divine source…so that it helps us focus and become reverent and respectful with sublime intentions………
How do we pray?…………….yes,we often pray in a quiet manner privately by ourselves forming our own words mentally/heartfully,some may pray in unison with a prayer group(various religious traditons) in order to be of support to each other and find peaceful connections,some pray by means of a text from a religious prayer book or leaflets,some chant mantras and others by using prayer beads and rosaries.Whatever and however we pray,our prayers could be so simple,altruistic and easy.
A Prayer when said simply,short and humbly,such as ‘help me’,’give me strength and courage to go through this painful time’,’thank you’,’help me to face the truth’,guide me’,’help so and so’,’may I be safe,may so and so be safe’,’may I find peace’etc….when a prayer is said and repeated like a mantra and easily…it can become a positive affirmation to help oneself gain presence,courage,relief,calmness,clarity and insight to face all difficult events.It helps transform the negative energies into positive ones.
Therefore it is said that a child’s prayer is powerful….due to its purity, simple and unadulterated supplication!
In my own example of praying very simply……… When I travelled to the Holyland,Middle-east beginning of the year 1998……I carried my heavily burdened suffering life together with my tormented,wandering/restless mind with me……….in the course of my visiting all those sacred/holy sites,all that could come up in my mind and heart were the 2 words…”help me!”………….I knew I was asking and pleading sincerely.That very end of the same year, I underwent an intense spiritual awakening and transformation!
When we sincerely pray for someone else, we are truly praying and blessing ourselves….for the good intentions extended has a boomerang effect to give us strength and courage to witness our benevolence,goodness and the sacredness of all beings.In that praying intention,we have the chance to cultivate compassion and tenderness for ourselves and in return back to others.
All form of prayer is truly an invocation,invitation and remembrance to seek the shelter and protection from pain, suffering and also to give thanks…..an opportunity to help remind ourselves to open the heart to seek sincere help and be humble to see oneself in the throes of needing assistance and guidance for direction along the path of our lives.
Just as the body needs food and liquids for energy to function in daily life,the inner being(the soul) also need spiritual food for comfort,nurturing,cultivating compassion and loving kindness.With simply saying a prayer we can find some form of relief and alleviation for a broken,painful,grieving and hurting soul.
In his memoir,Eric Clapton: The Autobiography, the musician writes about a rock-bottom moment he had in rehab in 1987:
“I was in complete despair,” wrote Clapton. “In the privacy of my room, I begged for help. I had no notion who I thought I was talking to, I just knew that I had come to the end of my tether . . . and, getting down on my knees, I surrendered. Within a few days I realized that . . . I had found a place to turn to, a place I’d always known was there but never really wanted, or needed, to believe in. From that day until this, I have never failed to pray in the morning, on my knees, asking for help, and at night, to express gratitude for my life and, most of all, for my sobriety”
There have been scientific research done to prove the efficacy of prayer usually done in a medical setting and there have been positive outcome showing that praying does help with the healing process of sick people rather than those left without any prayerful concern.
Yes, in truth we all have the power to pray,irrespective of having any one particular religious belief,agnostic or atheist,the illiterate or the rich and famous,we all have at one point or other have asked quietly within ourselves for help and guidance, we know our vulnerabilities,weaknesses, uncertainties and limitations.We need the power of prayer to keep our hearts and minds open for help,hope, relief and comfort,not only for ourselves but to also connect us to the hearts and minds of others on this journey through Life.