I hear this a lot: “a spell is like a prayer.” This is not true and I wish people would stop telling non-pagans this. A spell is basically a way to manipulate natural energy (yours, earth energy etc.) into bringing about a desired change using an incantation or visualization. A prayer is a petition made to Spirit to give thanks, praise, or ask for help. The difference here is that if you are asking for help, you are leaving it up to deity to bless you with what you need. As pagans we know we can use energy to bring about change. For me, this means when I am in need of something I will cast a spell and then do everything in my power to help bring about the change. This is includes looking and listening to the universe for the clues to success. Prayer is a way for me to be thankful and show gratitude for all of the blessings in my life. Informally it is also a way that I talk to Spirit directly and organically about what is going on in my life and goals I am trying to reach.
So lets put spells aside and focus on prayer in its true form. Many folks were brought up in Christian religions and thus are familiar with prayer. Unfortunately when they began their pagan journey they discounted and tossed everything from the Christian system. Unfortunately, prayer is one of the things many lost along the way. For whatever reason, I know so many Pagans who were raised Christian who are so angry with their upbringing they will not open their minds to anything even remotely Christian so they just can’t wrap their heads around prayer and what it can mean for a Pagan.
Since this blog is all about living spiritually all the time, I felt the need to share how prayer in its simplicity can help you on your spiritual path each and every day.
Prayers can be a few quick words at any time of the day, or a longer structured prayer that is only spoken at certain times of day. I do a lot of both during the course of my day. First lets look at spontaneous prayer. For me this type of prayer is just as important if not a little more important than the scheduled recitations. We experience so many things through the course of our day: sadness, happiness, chaos, a moment or two of peace, love, anger, displays of loyalty; the list goes on and on. Spontaneous prayer can happen at any of these moments. My favourite is obviously when I experience great joy or am reminded of how much love I have for Spirit. This is when I take a moment, feel my heart swell and give gratitude for that blessing. Of course the flip side is saying a prayer to Spirit to help you through a difficult moment. The goal to living a Pagan lifestyle is to try to be present in each moment (even the mundane ones) and to be grateful for all we have. So it is important to practice mindfulness each and every day. If you are being mindful in life you will not miss out on opportunities to experience, grow and be grateful. As hard as it may be we need also to be grateful for the not so good things. After all, adversity can be just as powerful to help us learn and grow. So anytime you are feeling grateful for a blessing so say so. In your own words in that moment offer up your praise to Spirit. When you ask for help be sure to listen for the words of wisdom Spirit whispers to you. Then be sure to look at that situation later and be grateful for the lesson you learned or the growth you achieved.
There is nothing wrong with speaking from the heart at any time of day. Especially if you are not one who appreciates repetition. I often say a spontaneous prayer before bed recounting the day in my own words and showing gratitude. Some of the words I say are the same each night, but mostly they are organic and reflect what I am feeling and experiencing.
If you are someone who likes routine then a structured prayer is perfect for you. How do you want to start your day? What is it you feel you need to begin the day in a positive way? What words will help you begin with a positive attitude, an open mind and heart, and prepare yourself for the not so great experiences we each have? Well, you can begin your day with thanks for another new day, a fresh start and an opportunity to grow. You can then ask for help to stay strong and stick to your faith or path. You can also ask for help to remind you to pay forward your blessings and love to others. At the end of the day, you can show gratitude for reaching slumber safely, for the lessons you’ve learned, the people who’ve touched your life and the opportunities that you had to receive even more blessings. There is always something to be grateful for. If you suffer from depression as I do and find some days hard to be grateful you can go back to basics. Your heart is still beating, your lungs still work, you can see, speak or hear. You’re alive and you’ve survived the day. Dig deep!
Another prayer that is sad so many are missing out on is mealtime blessings. I always do a mealtime blessing even if I am just having an apple or granola bar. I am grateful that I am in a position to have food available to me when so many others do not. It has also been said that those who pray before eating or bless their food before ingesting it actually absorb more nutrients from food than those who don’t. I wish I could remember where I found that study as it was so long ago, but I believe it to be true. After all, we get more out of a ritual when we are fully present and connected, why shouldn’t we be able to get more nutrients from food that we have connected with and have gratitude for. This is a very simple way to continuously connect with Spirit every day. I like to say a prayer before I cook as well. It keeps me focused on the love I have for the people I am cooking for (yes yourself counts) and grateful for the blessing of having food to cook. You can start with something as simple as “Thank you Spirit for this food.” It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. Of course if it so pleases you, you can say a few more words of gratitude and blessing the food. I like to add “may this meal nourish us mind, body and spirit.” This reminds me that all things have energy including food and you are ingesting that energy. By seeing food as an energy source for mind, body and soul, you can appreciate more the depth of what food brings in to our lives.
Think about your life, your schedule and your situation and try to come up with a time or even a specific prayer you can say each day. Talking to Spirit is so important. Prayer keeps us connected.
The last thing I want to add here, is a quick note about meditation as is relates to prayer. I cannot remember who said this but it goes something like this: If prayer is speaking to God then meditation is listening to God. When we pray it is important to have a few moments of silence during the day to hear the wisdom being sent to us. The conversation goes both ways, don’t ever forget that.