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How I Learnt to Pray

Just as there are a thousand ways to draw the sun, there are many ways to pray too.

“You don’t have to throw your bare knees to the cold stone floor at you bedside”, she said.

“There are other ways to pray. Just sit comfortable, close your eyes, be still and call on a higher power to be with you. When you feel a deep sense of peace come over you, when you feel your heart fill with love, when you feel the room is full of light, then you know that this higher power is with you.”

Then came the next instruction.

“When you pray, you don’t need to plead, beg, lament in distress or recite the words of a prayer that you were taught in childhood like a limerick. You simply open up a conversation as if you’re talking with a beloved friend or guardian. Ask for guidance. Share your hopes. Offer gratitude for your blessings. Simply be in the presence of holiness for a little while. And then listen…”

She told me that prayers are not always answered in words, but most often with a knowing in your heart. The answer may not come today, but trust that your answer and a way forward will be revealed in the days to come. Perhaps you may not even get an answer. Instead, you will wake up to find your situation has been healed and all is on the mend.

She was my spiritual instruction teacher, a compassionate and somewhat unconventional nun named after a rose. I was 16 when I decided to start taking classes with her and she taught me this form of meditative prayer. For a year, I spent my Friday afternoons with her, learning about the church, spirituality, angels, the lives of saints and seemingly simple yet life-changing life skills, like how to pray and meditate. While I’ve long let go of the limiting beliefs and ways of orthodox religion and opened up to a broader perception of spirituality, both prayer and meditation have remained a central part of my personal spiritual practice.

Sometimes I wonder why I did that. Why did I choose to offer up my Friday afternoons to learn about spirituality when I could have been hanging out with my friends and getting up to teenage mischief? The only answer I can think of is that it must have been what my soul needed in the midst of my unsettled home life. I followed what my intuition called me to. These classes gave me the kind of grounding and a sense of hope that the adults in my life where unable to give me at the time. Learning how to pray in this manner offered healing for my wounds and inspiration in times when I felt jaded.

Just as there are a thousand ways to draw the sun, there are many ways to pray too.  Is the journey of a feather falling quietly and then landing softly on the Earth not a prayer? What about the way withering sunflowers bow their heads in soulful prayer, surrendering to the beauty of falling apart? Sometimes a prayer means saying “please help me”, crying yourself to sleep and then waking up with the courage to face another day. And sometimes a prayer is as small a gesture as opening up the conservation to say “thank you” and then listening long enough to hear the response “you are welcome”. This is something I’ve kept close to my heart as I pray for daily guidance and strength in the context of a difficult fertility journey that has meant facing up to a string of disappointments and heartbreaking pregnancy losses. Even though the future remains uncertain, each prayer that I offer gifts me some level of catharsis and opens up the doors of hope. The guidance comes day by day. And I keep discovering the kind of inner strength I’d never imagined I had. I find myself surrendering what I cannot control and deeply grateful that I have been able to navigate my way back to a space of relative happiness despite all that has happened.

I have learnt that it doesn’t matter who you prayer to or how you choose to pray. What is important is that we each remain open to what resonates best with our inner self and then let things unfold organically in a way that is meaningful to you.

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