• June 26, 2018

    What is meant by objective prayer? Isn’t prayer by its very nature subjective?

    There are different kinds of prayer and they serve different purposes. Let’s start with petitionary prayer. I pray for something for myself or for others. My prayer is therefore a wish. To whom do I pray? Perhaps I think of myself praying to God, the Absolute, His Endlessness or the Universe. The concept does not matter. In my opinion, it has no relevance. What matters is that I reach outside myself, I ask for help.

    Asking is the beginning of humility and it has the possibility of aligning my wish with greater forces. The way is opened to relationship and relationship can bring an action of the heart.

    Petitionary prayer is subjective. I do not know what is best. I do not know what the consequences will be if my wish is fulfilled.

    Isn’t this kind of prayer an expression of weakness?

    Yes, and isn’t that much of its value? If I wish for something, who better to ask than the One to whom I pray? Self-reliance is a great thing. Taking responsibility is admirable. But these qualities assume their rightful place when I recognize my limitations. Otherwise, do I not become arrogant and foolish?

    Now, there is another form of prayer which takes me deeper. It can be seen in the Jesus prayer, “Our Father…” This prayer has petitionary aspects but it also has something else, which is found in the line “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This means I no longer pray only for what I wish. I pray that His purpose should be fulfilled. To me, this is objective. It is also recognition that, in this world, His will is not fully sovereign.

    I think we can go still further. Objective Prayer would seek to fulfill His purpose within the prayer itself. What would such a prayer consist of? Would it not serve His pleasure? This prayer would express His qualities, such as love and glorification, which are not often found in this world. This prayer would celebrate my relationship with Him, revealing part of His nature to Himself through me, as a kind of mirror. In this prayer, my longing is His response and in this reciprocity there is mutual satisfaction.

    This is the purpose of zikr?

    Yes. By invocation, it may be possible to bring the bounty of His qualities into being. This would be objective prayer.

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  • November 6, 2015

    Group invocation last night was such an extraordinary experience. I feel that we were taken to another place. Why is this not the main practice of our work together?

    It is. In fourth way terms, what we are doing Thursday night is Objective Prayer, prayer that serves creation, which Sufis call zikr. This is the purpose and pinnacle of our work together. It also has personal benefit but that is the backwash from our invocation, not the purpose.

    This is an experienced group. We have worked together for a long time. We did not start with Objective Prayer. We started with, and we continue with, work on self—attention,  presence and observation of self. This is the work that makes it possible to invoke without aborting into personal spaces.

    Do you know your state? Can you shift it to the state required for invocation? Can you attend to the unfolding of the invocation without interruption? This is what it means to be housebroken. You do not make a mess on the carpet. If you bring a personal state into zikr, the entire effect is lost. At the very least, you must attain a kind of receptive neutrality.

    All of us need the preliminaries, always. Know where your attention is now. Be able to call it to the needs of the present moment.

    Without the preliminaries, zikr easily turns subjective, even emotional and self-indulgent. This is not a practice for getting high or ecstatic, as some groups like to do. There is ecstasy at times but sobriety is always present, reflecting its purpose.

    What about groups that do not have this prayer form?

    For years I did not have it. The possibility emerged from my researches and work on self. We are not a particularly talented group. Our capacities are not unique. The laws governing Objective Prayer can be discovered, or perhaps I should say remembered. The form itself can vary in accordance with the different traditions which have recognized the importance of it.

    There is always help for those who truly need it.

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