What Is Prayer?

Rupert Spira
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And what is prayer? Again, I would like to remain silent, for silence is the closest we come to God before losing ourself in that. Prayer is simply to remain as the ‘I am’ before the words ‘I am’. To abide as that. Simply to be. If this is clear to you, not just philosophically but
experientially, read no further.

Our understanding of God and our understanding of prayer, depends upon our understanding of our self.  Much of the world’s great religious literature places the individual in a relationship of devotion to the creator God. This path of devotion and surrender gradually purifies and attenuates the individual until the question arises, ‘If God’s being is infinite, how can there be room for an individual being within it?’ The existence of numerous finite beings would displace a part of infinite being and infinite being would no longer be infinite. God would no longer be God. We come to understand that there is no room for the finite in the infinite.

A human being is God’s being temporarily clothed in human attributes. God’s being is a human being divested of its qualities.

In prayer, we travel inwards through the layers of experience – thinking, feeling, sensing, perceiving, acting and relating – until we come to our irreducible being. Divested of the qualities that our self derives from the content of experience, it stands revealed as God’s being...Prayer is to understand and feel that the only being in us is God’s being, and to abide as that.

Existence is being in motion; being is existence at rest. Prior to the emergence of things, being is unmanifest. It is empty, formless, transparent, silent, still. Form is emptiness in motion; emptiness is form at rest. Praise is prayer in movement; prayer is praise at rest...When we are still, we come closest to God. ‘Be still, and Know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10). Meister Eckhart said, ‘Nothing in all creation is so like God as stillness’.

The mind’s activity is the form in which the one appears as the many. Having refracted itself into an apparent multiplicity and diversity of objects and selves, it experiences – in the form of one of those selves – sorrow on the inside and conflict on the outside. Turning back, it ceases to fragment itself through the activities of thinking and perceiving, and returns to its natural condition of wholeness, perfection and peace.

Being shares none of the qualities of ourself as a person, although it is the very essence of ourself and is all there is to ourself, just as a screen shares none of the qualities of the movie and is, at the same time, its essence and reality. Thus, being is impersonal and yet utterly intimate. Intimate, impersonal, indivisible, infinite being, God’s being. There is just God’s infinite being and we are that. That is the ultimate surrender.


Excerpts from The Heart of Prayer.

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