Teach Us to Pray

St. Mary’s Sewanee declares itself as a “center for spiritual development.”  Meaning what?
 
First, spiritual development is an experiential process.  It must be lived in the “first-person,” rather than observed in someone else.  We must fully engage spiritual development with our whole self – mind, body and spirit – to appreciate any impact on our well-being.
 
Second, if spiritual development is to happen, then prayer must be an integral part of this pursuit.  Spiritual development is more than a “self-help” regimen.  You and I must make a serious commitment to pray, no matter our faith tradition or lack thereof.
 
What then is prayer?  Prayer is the act of acknowledging the existence of a divine mystery and seeking to be in relationship with this mystery.  Prayer comes out of an innate hunger, a desire to know a superior reality that seems to permeate and undergird our material existence.  At one level, prayer is as simple as breathing, while at another, none of us know precisely how to pray, not even the most devout.  Still, prayer should not be intimidating because it can never be mastered. It is a practice we can spend a lifetime pursuing and enjoying the nourishment it provides.  Herein lies the value of St. Mary’s Sewanee.
 
In addition to our ongoing residential programs and retreats that provide insights to prayer and other means of deepening one’s spiritual life, St. Mary’s Sewanee offers the following series of reflections from notable spiritual teachers of various faith traditions, who respond to the ancient call for help – “teach us to pray.”

Teach Us to Pray

  • You might like to record these instructions for yourself so that you can hear them read back to you in your own voice at an unhurried pace ... pausing at the spaces marked with ....   Letting your body come into a seated posture ... and notice how the floor ...
  • We have come to seek you, O God, just as we are we come. We have come to be sought by you, just as we are we come.             A member of our Community wrote this chant, and I find it so helpful because just ...
  • Water says to the dirty, “Come here.” The dirty one says, “I am so ashamed.” Water says,  “How will your shame be washed away without me.”   [Rumi, Mathnawi, II, 1366-7]   Human beings have an innate need to be in communion and communication with something of the utmost value ...
  • In Theravada Buddhism, the “natural” state of mind (when our inclinations toward greed, anger, and delusion are transformed—even for a second—into generosity, renouncing, love, compassion, clarity and understanding) is clear and bright.  Prayer might best be understood in this tradition to be “cultivation”—cultivation of that clear and bright mind, cultivation ...
  • The purpose of prayer is to awaken us to this truth: Alles iz Gott/All is God, the singular source and substance that embraces and transcends all reality. With this in mind let me share two prayers that you might incorporate into your own life.   Elohai nishahmah sheh natatabi t’horah ...
  • Prayer is not a request for God’s favors.  True, it has been used to obtain the satisfaction of personal desires.  It has even been adopted to reinforce prejudices, justify violence, and create barriers between people and between countries.  But genuine prayer is based on recognizing the Origin of all that ...
  • All of us pray.  If we are about to hit another car (or be hit), we cry “help”.  When we hear bad news that touches us deeply, we say, “Oh, God!”  When we look into the eyes of our beloved or see the beauty of a glowing sunset, something stirs ...
  • There are so many different ways and so many different techniques about the teaching of prayer. In the end however, I turn back to that familiar saying that prayer is “caught not taught.”   I recall also one of the great examples of holiness in contemporary society, Fr. Basil Hume ...