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 of love, generosity, etc. Thus, in one sense, “prayer” or cultivation is what happens in solitude, in silence, as one engages in any form of meditation that helps bring forward that clear and bright mind. And “prayer” or cultivation is what happens in the dynamism of our everyday lives when we call those virtues, that clear and bright mind, that wisdom into play. (And I choose that word carefully, because “play” allows for the dynamism, the learning, the experimentation that is required for cultivation in the whirl of the everyday.) Prayer/cultivation is play, a kind of intentional play we do alone and with others when we live intentional lives.
Sid Brown has been studying Buddhism and Buddhist meditation since 1982 in India, Sri Lanka, Japan, Thailand, and the United States under a variety of teachers.