12 March 2005

8 types of prayer for beginning and ending the day

Here's another in the series on prayer. This is a prayer I've evolved that I try to begin and end every day with. It's based on the types of prayer outlined in the catechism on pages 856 and 857 of the US Book of Common Prayer.

The catechism lists seven principle types of prayer:

Adoration, or the lifting up of the heart and mind to God, asking nothing but to enjoy God's presence.
Oblation, or offering one's self to God.
Intercession, or asking something on someone else's behalf.
Petition, or asking something on one's own behalf.

In thinking about Adoration, which is silent and nonconceptual, just enjoying the presence of God, it occurs to me that there are at least two other types of silent, nonconceptual prayer that I'm aware of:

Contemplation, or silently, nonconceptually inviting the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Via Negativa meditation, or what Buddhists call meditation on Emptiness--meditation on the limited, inaccurate nature of any concepts we humans might hold about God (or, for that matter, the universe).

So I believe I know at least nine different types of prayer (which should perhaps be distinguished from modes of prayer, such as said, sung, journalling, etc.) I've evolved a "just after waking up and just before going to sleep" prayer which includes eight of the nine. (Contemplation requires time commitment, no two ways about it, so it's not part of this relatively quick opening-and-closing-my-eyes routine.)

So: I start with Via Negativa or Emptiness meditation. If I'm burdened by any heavy concepts about God or the world around me (concepts left over from the day, the previous day, or from dreams), I just silently let them fall away until there's nothing left but the pure, beyond-concepts presence of God.

This usually brings a slight smile to my lips, and naturally leads into Adoration. I just spend a few seconds enjoying God's presence.

Adoration leads naturally to Praise. "God, you are my Everything," is how I usually verbalize it.

Praise leads to Oblation. "And I am Yours completely." As You are utterly All to me, I am utterly Yours.

Oblation leads to Thanksgiving. "Thank You, Mother (or Father)". I usually only verbalize those words, but I mentally recall and raise up to God the things I'm particularly thankful for.

Thanksgiving leads to Penitence. "I'm sorry, Father (or Mother)". As with Thanksgiving, I verbalize only those words but mentally recall and repent of my recent sins.

Penitence leads to Petition, as it always does in our liturgies. "May I serve You in newness of life." Having confessed my sins and been forgiven, please strengthen me to serve you as best I can instead of dwelling on them.

Petition leads to Intercession. "May all beings be happy." As above, I verbalize briefly, but mentally lift up to God the intercessions currently on my heart. This is also a token for the full prayer of the Four Immeasurables (see two or three posts ago).

So that's my little beginning-and-ending prayer. All in all, it only takes a few minutes. It's certainly arguable that it's an excellent example of my anal retentive nature: I want to make sure I cover all the bases. :-) But it works for me.

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