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THE PRAYER AS CONNECTION TO OUR BEING

… for the good of the world …

A person placing his mind within the heart and, without speaking with his mouth, but only with inner words spoken in the heart, [says] this brief and single prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” Nicodemos

… year BC: He’s a lonely man, walking the forests and .. the deserts of the

year

BC: He’s a lonely man, walking the forests and

.. the deserts of the ancient times. Around him, an unknown nature, overlooking and terrorizing him. He is a lonely man: with his fears and doubts, lonely with his unanswe- red questions. He doesn’t know himself, why he is here, what’s happening around him, and he also doesn’t know his destiny. His only aim is to survive, waiting for the dawn, walking in a fearful night. That man has only a

sky above his head; a sky with a “lonely” hot sun, lonely just like him. A sun that gives Life, burning by itself. That man, looking upon the sky, feels a sense of relief. He senses that there, hidden above the sky, lives his never known Father. He senses that there, in that deep blue sky,

he can find his real home. That man lifts his arms toward

the sky, kneels down and expresses an invocation.

It’s a scream, a silent question and, at the same time, a

request and a declaration. Thus, he expresses the first objective sound in his life: his first prayer.

Forgiveness

It has been said that we are born alone and that we’ll die alone. It’s a simple truth: that’s the only certainty we can believe in, just as it is equally certain that this solitude accompanies us throughout our life.

Not much has changed since man took his first

steps on this Planet. To overcome atavistic fe- ars, he built safe and organized societies, and created myriad philosophies to answer many questions. But many fears and many questions remain unanswered.

Today, the man is still lonely, wondering about the meaning of his existence and what will happen the day he’ll die. Existence threatens him, thus he seeks a refuge, a protection from that sense of precariousness of life.

Thus, the word “prayer” – in the history of mankind – is connected to the anguish of fa- cing death, the insecurity and the understan- ding that he can’t administer his destiny.

Man’s life is full of solitude and lack of un- derstanding, and like the men of thousands of years ago, he cries, looks up to heaven, and feels the need to be “forgiven”, to deposit, for a moment, the burden of all the insecurities, fears, suffering and injustices endured.

This is the first meaning of Prayer: the need

for a short pause, a relief from a burden which disturbs his existence. Birth, suffering, disease, injustice, death – anything that inhibits his existence is placed in an invocation at the foot of the highest au- thority, able to justify the meaning of all and alleviate the burden.

He asks forgiveness to the divine to release the weight of his sufferings, anxieties, and fears.

For the first time, he finally feels comfortable

and can quietly close his eyes, relaxed and in complete abandonment into the arms of the eternal Father.

Contact

It’s amazing how the meaning of prayer has remained completely unchanged despite cen- turies and millennia of progress: even today, man feels the need to communicate in order

to establish a contact with its original source, with his origin, with a thousand-named tran-

scendent Entity, ultimately identified with the

concept of “God”.

Even when he says that “God doesn’t exist”,

man testifies to His existence, at least as a term

of opposition. Why lose time in asserting the absolute non-existence of God? A truth is con-

firmed when its opposite can be affirmed: isn’t

it?

It is really incredible how much energy is still spent trying to prove a concept that is belie- ved not to exist! Ordinarily, no one spends his time denying the existence of what he sees as non-existent. It seems that, even when a man talks to God in the negative way, he is simply expressing a desperate attempt to communi-

cate with what he feels a reference, perceived as father, mother, child, a will that governs all things, or even, as a principle which summari- zes all these forms.

“Do not worry about what will come next, you will discover it when it co- mes.”

“Do not worry about what will come next, you will discover it when it co- mes.”

St. Symeon

A way to pray

A man feels the “need to pray”, a practice in- stinctively done for thousands of years to alle- viate the burden of his life, relying on the only one “who knows the meaning of all things”.

Through the history of mankind, great beings became servants of a long-sought truth. Each of them, in their own way, experienced, lear- ned and understood. Each of them had left his own experience providing a way of interpreta- tion according to the time and the place they lived.

Zoroaster, Rama, Toth, Krishna, Elijah, Her- mes, Moses, Orpheus, Pythagoras, Lao-Tse, Plato, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, Confucius, and many other teachers and seekers of truth, have left a way – a path – to explain the Only Truth. And what they taught was a way of praying.

Thus, over time, the act of praying has acqui- red a nuance that had evolved, acquiring the color and passion of so many hearts that, over

millennia, they had practiced with truth and sincerity. And for every question that might be contained in man’s heart, they gave a spe- cial prayer.

The prayer as a request

Even if over the centuries, the act of praying has evolved and gradually became more sophi- sticated, more “technical”, it is still something strange and inexplicable.

When he prays, man, of course, asks to be re- lieved from the burdens of life, but at the same time, he adds other claims to the divine source, simple or complicated questions, recommen- dations for themselves or their loved ones, and requests for help and comfort.

However, in thousands of years of praying softly or mentally, or even yelling alone in a desert, the man could only hear the echo of his own demands: today, as thousands of years ago, God has never answered. Nevertheless, the man continues to pray. It is obvious that he doesn’t pray because this pleases God, but rather because the act of praying improves himself.

Indeed, God doesn’t need human prayers: that

Infinite and Perfect being cannot be confined in a finite part of himself (the man) who invo- kes It. On the contrary, it’s the man who needs to “hear” God through his own prayers. The

same invocation defines and gives form to one

who has not a form and allows him a “connec-

tion” with an essence knowable and finite that otherwise, remains infinite and unknowable.

A small space in the heart

“Hearing God” through Prayer, gets us in touch with our own source, with the essence of exi- stence, so that we can “touch” it at least with our heart, instead of through an intellectual speculation – that’s the meaning of prayer.

The heart is at least the real place of the act of praying. The mystics taught us that the “rea- son” and the “heart” should be kept separate for a long time before the heart may subject reason.

The mystic is prayer’s last explorer. He is the scholar, the sage, the Borderlands walker that has to be an example when a deep need for contact with the divine emerges.

Often, we are surprised when we see this “need for praying” emerging above our being. It is a kind of “internal” call, which opens the way for new spaces, which leads us quickly into a state of meditation.

Then, we suspend any action, sit apart in silen-

ce, turn to listen in, give free flow to our inner

space and, magically, we enter into another time, or rather, access to a space that resides in us.

Then, we suspend any action, sit apart in silen- ce, turn to listen in, give free

Prayer as listening to oneself

Prayer is the focal point in the interaction between matter and spirit: it is the request to the divine, who is the bearer of human suffe- ring, since suffering is the same product of the separation from the Truth – as saying that the distance from God, separation from it beco- mes so unbearable as to be transformed into “demand for closeness” , or in prayer.

Left to itself, to its source, a man feels entitled to ask for anything, even the most trivial, sin- ce in the timeless value of this communication there is no reason, or no logic, but only “fee- ling”.

It is the requirement to externally shape our “inner space” because we talk to ourselves. In doing so, we hear a voice within us, that slowly makes its way inside, above the noise and educates us to an understanding.

Prayer is to ourselves, because it makes us grow. It is a school of the interior bearing to- wards the exterior. It’s a need that brings us

to “talk”, to express the truth about ourselves and, at the same time, educates us, even to li- sten.

Prayer, in fact, opens an inner space of inqui- ry where you can admire the “expression” and “listening”, as co-existing terms of a single ac- tion, coming from the man to himself.

“We are made of the same substance of dre- ams”, said Shakespeare, and indeed, the man really lives the fear of a type of deception, as if waking up every morning, he had to be sure he was still the same as the day before.

The man lives above the need to confirm his

existence, but once it is “perceived” and noted,

then he is also able to listen. Once the flame is

ignited, there arises the power of listening, the individual begins to change what is outside. At this point, the heart – as the mystics teach us-overcome the mind and brings the human experience to a “spiritual”.

Because the transcendent is the “bridge”, it is the real point of contact between the human emotion and spirit. I’s is an “I” that evolves,

as self-expression, which knows how to recei- ve inwardly and outwardly, the harmony of the universe.

Beyond the experience of feeling

A harmonized and self-expressive “I” is a gre- at blessing, and is a valuable experience for others, for all those who come into contact with this kind of man. But for him, the expe- rience is good up to a certain extent, it beco- mes too sterile, as if it is “not enough”. And

yet again, he needs to “press on” as if to take another step, another point of contact, even more tenuous that its predecessor, even more

in the field which lies beyond senses.

Now, the individual feels he exists. He no lon- ger has doubts, understands clearly his “in-

consistency”. It’s not being compared to the unknown, compared to God, exactly. Thus, in him, there is the profound need of a disci- pline that educates the transcendent and that might lead to understanding the Truth, from the inside-out. In this moment, in this blessed moment, right through the pain given by the perception of unbridgeable distance from the

Father, lights the flame of desire.

Only now we can say – we see the emergence of true prayer, ascetic discipline that is made of knowledge achieved which will bring the individual to a growth, no longer isolated, but in unity with the Father.

There is no longer the need to push the man to-

ward the search for God, but toward the fire of

desire, namely, the sum of needs. It will ine- vitably lead to the silence of his mind. Desire leads to detachment, the space between living the experience and feeling it intimately, where it has always been. But now, at this moment, it is revealed, coming from above. “Something” that takes the color of the emotions, arises. The mind can’t recognize what happens and “slips” back, in silence.

The breathing stops, and there – right there – a small point is born and develops the profound mystery that perhaps more than any other,

should be investigated. Like a small light, like a flame, comes on and connects us to the im- mensity of the universe. That happens in us,

infinitesimally small beings!

From infinity to the finite, this contact takes

shape and everything becomes magically calm. Everything outside becomes less im-

portant – a bitter, and at the same time, sweet

feeling flows in our heart. A grateful warmth

envelops everything, motionless as the night

on the lake. In the time that this feeling flows,

everything remains immobile, as in the faint light of childhood memories.

Then, finally, “something” speaks to us, and

that sound gives us warmth, like the embra- ce of a mother, of her breathing, beside and within us.

God as the witness of our existence

We can see a deep human desire to communi- cate, to get in touch with that energy which we perceive as its origin: a requirement that all of us – both men and women – feel as a need which has to be externalized in terms of action.

Prayer is the action that becomes manifested as a profound need for an “inner feeling”

which, as we have seen, needs to arise: first to produce relief (even if mostly unconscious)

in the lodge before God, the burden of our exi- stence and then, to the emergence of sponta- neous requests for help that has remained over the centuries so naïve, so human, although the thought has evolved in complexity and sophi- stication: a man’s request to the divine, who in fact, is still exactly the same today as it was, two thousand years ago.

But why do we have a need to pray, why should we continue to ask even if we have neither experience nor any memory of any response from God, who, apart from sophisticated in-

tellectual ruminations, is defined by our wisest

mystics and thinkers as “Unknowable, the im- measurable, the indescribable?”

The answer must be sought in the attitude of the man who prays with the unconscious re- quest that underlies the very act of prayer. When we deposit the bundle at the feet of the divine, there arises a heartfelt request which has driven man from the beginning of his exi- stence: “Hear me, and for a moment, please, look at me. Show my existence as real.”

The man, even before a pardon or a favor, asked for a moment of personal observation, a recognition of his own individuality: and he is

doing this act not to believe in the existence of

God, but to confirm his own existence.

We believe further that the question of his very existence accompanies the man from the very beginning: the comparison with nature, work, relationships, with other men, and strong emo- tions, that he continually tries with no other

reason than to “feel” the need to define himself

in relation to something external to himself.

But that is not enough: in fact, the man exists,

maybe only in relation to his creator: “If You, who has created me, You, the architect of everything that exists, are looking at me – even for a moment – that will mean that I re- ally exist, that I’m a concrete point different from the rest…”

In this appeal, we find the seed, the basic unit

of prayer, a sort of ancient code left on this ancient planet.

He longs for the gaze of the Father, as a baby needs attention.

That glance, that moment of contact, is everything to him, and for that, he is willing to pray for his entire existence.

It is the hand that stops before stroking, that Zen was able to raise the ancient art of zan- shin, the thought of not thinking. When this happens after long suffering, we experience the light of an explosion from the experience that some Zen poets and mystics have called “the sunshine in the rain.” So, who can say right now where the man ends, and where the divine begins?

The whiteness of the light falling snow lights the being that looks and listens.” With this

simple Haiku, we are going to close our free

analysis of one of the most significant growths

of a man in the bosom of his existence: prayer.

Observation

In this troubled time, with changes so large and fast, the time when social divisions are more apparent, it would be desirable to have a better understanding of this great opportu- nity that man has gained over time. Prayer is not the only answer, but it is certainly a way to bring the issue at the heart of man and of his fears, his loneliness, his still unanswered questions.

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