In my work as a spiritual counselor and adviser, I encounter all too often people who do not pray, pray inconsistently, or who don't know how to pray. A common excuse is that they "forget," like forgetting to floss or balance the checkbook. Some haven't thought about God in such a long time that they feel it's useless to start praying now. Others think that going to a house of religion such as a church or temple is the only way to pray and they haven't the time. While I would never discourage anyone from participating in religious service with a congregation, it's not about a place -- it's about a purpose. Please know that God is patient and always accessible to you no matter your environment or circumstances.
When I ask my clients if they have 10 minutes a day for God, they all invariably say yes. But saying you will commit to the intention and actually manifesting the intention are two different things. This process will require self-discipline in order to be conscious and aware enough to make time to be with God on a daily basis. I recommend that this prayer time be the same 10 minutes every day in order to develop a good habit and make the time fit within the flow of your typical daily routine. Some people choose to pray as they are awakening to a new day, others pray at bedtime, and still others pray during their lunch break. Personally, I pray throughout every day so that my conscious state becomes almost a perpetual meditation.
Here's a way to pray that I have found useful and effective. It may be used as a starting point from which to expand your good thoughts and intentions. I want for each client of mine to understand that praying isn't a quickie recitation-by-rote-and-you're-covered. Nor does prayer require great expanses of time that make it unrealistic or insurmountable. The significance of the prayer lies in the thought and emotion invested in it, not necessarily the amount of time.
Nearly everyone can relate to the metaphor of throwing a stone into a pond or lake. I use this universal experience to illustrate how to enact the prayer. As the stone breaks the surface of the water, it creates a series of concentric circles that gradually expand outward from the point of contact -- we call this the "ripple effect." And so, start low and go slow by praying from smallest to largest. I encourage my clients to think of themselves as the stone by starting the prayer with what is most familiar and what they know best: themselves.
As the stone, begin the prayer not by praying for what you think you want and need but by expressing gratitude for what you already have. Too many of us take too much for granted. Not one of us is promised another day, let alone another moment. I recommend praying selflessly. I suggest offering appreciation and thanksgiving for all the gifts and blessings and privileges that have been bestowed upon you on this day of life.
Strip it down to the bare essentials, for example: Thank you for my eyesight to take in the beauty of all I survey. Thank you for my legs to carry me whereas others are less fortunate (think of athletes running last year's Boston Marathon who lost their limbs in the blink of an eye). Thank you for food and fresh water to consume where such commodities are scarce for others. Thank you for employment where others are struggling. Thank you for a place to live where others haven't a place to call their own. Thank you for prosperity, which may not come in the form of money but in an exchange of goods and services. Thank you for presenting me with opportunities to be a better human being today than I was yesterday. Thank you for granting that I might employ my gifts and talents to render service to others.
These are merely a few examples of expressing gratitude. Of course, you are welcome to tailor these expressions however it best suits you. Finally, request that divine guidance might be impressed within you to assist you in making proper decisions and to inspire you with creativity and ingenuity.
Next, the first ripple created by the stone's impact symbolizes those closest to you, perhaps those with whom you cohabitate, such as a roommate, a spouse, your parents, siblings or your children. Pray for their health, safety and well-being. Pray that you might be of service to them. Pray that they will find the spiritual strength to manage whatever may come their way, and to respond in a manner that is right and true and good and kind.
The second ripple might include persons beyond your immediate group of loved ones, such as extended family, friends, coworkers or neighbors. If they seem too many in number, alternate on whom you wish to focus on this day.
The third ripple might include anyone in your community with whom you also have an emotional connection.
The fourth ripple outward from the stone is a global one that might include other human beings unknown to you but of whom you have been made aware by national or international news such as the child who had a stroke of brilliance and is making a difference in the lives of others. Or the people of a foreign nation who suffer from the daily fear and anxiety of violent warfare.
The fifth ripple may be for the souls of others whom you have known and loved and lost, or those to whom you are indebted such as anyone who has sacrificed their lives by rendering service to others. Again, you may wish to be selective depending on how you feel guided.
The sixth ripple -- and the seventh portion of the prayer -- is reserved for God. God bless God. God bless the angels who have been known to take human form to intervene and avert a tragedy, and then vanish without a trace. God bless every good thing that God embodies in our lives.
If this seems like too much to do or remember, begin with just the first one or two steps. Or create your own sequence based on the examples here.
Personal experience has shown me that being conscious and aware of expressing this prayer -- or any similar meditation -- results in attracting to me positive people and positive circumstances while minimizing the negative. You may also find yourself better equipped to manage a crisis by drawing upon the spiritual reserve you have established as you would make a withdrawal from a bank. I have found my altruistic appreciation is reciprocated tenfold -- often when I least expect it. This doesn't happen in a manner that is grandiose but in simple, subtle ways that answer my questions or provide for my needs in the moment.
I wholeheartedly believe this empowerment can manifest for you as a byproduct of practicing a daily prayer. But that's not why you do it. We are spiritual beings having a human experience, and I see this prayer as one response to practicing our humanity.