Over the past several weeks many people have asked me about prayer. It brought to mind some correspondence Thomas Merton had with a Sufi mystic about prayer. It took me a while to find it today, but I finally did. The mystic communicated to Merton what his was like. Maybe this will be helpful to some of you. It has been for me in the past.
Let me quote:
“It is centered entirely on attention to the presence of God and to His will and His love. That is to say that it is centered on faith by which alone we can know the presence of God… One might say this gives my meditation the character described by the Prophet as ‘being before God as if you saw Him.’ Yet it does not mean imagining anything or conceiving a precise image of God, for to my mind this would be a kind of idolatry. On the contrary, it is a matter of adoring Him as invisible and infinitely beyond our comprehension, and realizing Him as all… fana… There is in my heart a great thirst to recognize totally the nothingness of all that is not God. My prayer is then a kind of praise rising up out of the center of Nothing and Silence. If I am still present ‘myself’ this I recognize as an obstacle about which I can do nothing unless He Himself removes the obstacle. If He wills He can then make the Nothingness into a total clarity. If He does not will, then the Nothingness seems to itself to be an object and remains an obstacle. Such is my ordinary way of prayer, or meditation. It is not ‘thinking about’ anything, but a direct seeking of the Face of the Invisible, which cannot be found unless we become lost in Him who is Invisible.”
So you can see that there are more mystical and contemplative ways to “pray”, if you want to call it that. God as “All”. In fact, I find the above paragraph more helpful if you replace the name “God’ with “All”, which I suspect is what the mystic meant. And even if you don’t believe in God or don’t know at this point, this form of meditation sounds remarkably similar to some Buddhist forms of meditation.
To me, prayer now means an alignment of me with Reality and Reality with me. It is a way of reaching agreement. It means attaining harmony, even if it is through struggle. Words are not necessary, but in fact obstacles themselves.
I hope this helps.