The other day I sat with the son of one of our patients. We talked about this and that, gently closing in on the impending death of his dad. And about life afterwards–so incomprehensible for him. Out of nowhere, a question sprang from my mouth: Do you ever pray? We were both surprised. I certainly was, because we’d never said much about god and religion. He too seemed taken aback and his immediate, probably automatic, response was to deny such a practice. But then he stopped himself and tears filled his eyes. What? I asked, lowering my voice to make my query less invasive.
We sat for a while longer, touching on our shared experience of being made to pray as children, of our reluctance to prayper se, and of the rare occasions when prayers seem to came all by themselves. Returning home, I looked for this quote which may be of help to us both. It’s by Kallistos Ware, titular Bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church for England: When you pray, you yourself must be silent … let the prayer speak. Become what you are: more exactly, return into yourself. His advice locates praying in a field beyond religious restrictions or notions of whom we might be praying to.
Br. Wayne Teasdale (another teacher who died too soon), writes:
Prayer is an essential, absolute activity found in every culture and every time. It defines human nature at its highest sense, in its efforts at spiritual attainment, and inner change of heart, mind, and behavior. It is the fundamental and perennial method of scaling the heights and probing the depths of the real.
source: Teasdale, W. (1999). The mystic heart: discovering a universal spirituality in the world’s religions. Novato, CA: New World, p. 216.