Humanity is in a moment of spiritual crisis. Structured religion, in all its forms, has caused many of us to feel more divided than ever and has alienated us from the truth of our oneness. Over the last three decades, the number of Americans who identify as “none,” meaning that they are unaffiliated with any religion, has climbed steadily. Today, as many Americans identify as “not religious” as those who identify as devotees of a particular religion. The decline of organized religion has caused millions of people to feel disconnected from spirituality. Where, then, do people turn for strength and guidance and inspiration? Some look to other sources such as yoga, meditation, astrology, and psychedelic drugs, but in all these efforts, we might be overlooking our innate ability to make direct contact with our inner guidance in every living, breathing moment. Our inner guidance is like a wireless network: it’s invisible, but it is available everywhere that we are. We just need to enter the password, and the password is prayer.
Imagine for a moment that you are in danger. You’re on an airplane that hits a pocket of turbulence, or you’re walking down the street and feel the trembling of an earthquake. You are completely vulnerable, at the mercy of your circumstances. Without thinking, you pray.
When we are in crisis, we go to God. We instinctively land there. We turn to prayer when we need a job, when we’re faced with a financial challenge, or when we or our loved one is suffering an illness. In a time of tremendous fear, constant uncertainty, and unthinkable loss, people in every corner of the world are turning to prayer. Internet searches for prayer skyrocketed as COVID-19 spread. This longing to connect with something larger than ourselves is always in us but is often buried. In times of crisis, it rises to the surface.
What about when you are not in danger, but in a moment of indecision, doubt, hurt, or lack? Where do you turn when you have an idea and aren’t sure how to execute it? How about when you want to connect with someone socially or professionally but feel “less than”? Or when you merely feel worried and don’t know how to break the cycle of anxious thinking? Anytime you are looking for guidance, for a solution to a problem, or for more vitality and aliveness in your life, start to pray, open yourself to the vast possibilities beyond your own mind, and let your imagination expand and wander. In crisis or not, prayer can bring you back to gratitude; giving thanks for what you have can soften your heart and connect you to your tender spirit. Ultimately, the presence of God is all about unconditional love. When we truly understand this, there is nothing that will stop us from screaming in unbridled joy: Eureka!
It takes discipline to turn your attention to prayer, to let go of your worrying. And it takes a sense of worthiness to believe that you are deserving of this awesome connection. So many of us move through our lives feeling unworthy. We believe that in order to claim our power we need to prove our value, but that’s the greatest trap of the human condition: we are looking for answers all around us and can’t see that the beloved resides within us. So few among us are ever taught this reality. But you can stop exactly where you are in any moment to pray, to call forward the presence here and now.
It’s astounding how the quality of your day can completely shift if you are willing to ask for whatever it is you want more of. It is extraordinary how our higher consciousness—the spirit in us—always wants to serve us. But it won’t intervene unless we open ourselves to it.
Eight Billion Ways to Pray
Here are some things to consider as you bring the intimate practice of prayer into your everyday life. First, allow yourself to come into receptivity and open your heart to receive the inner guidance. Quiet the mind and start to fall inward so you can listen. Set your ego aside and become more vulnerable so you can experience the shift, hear the guidance, and start to receive the awareness. Be grateful for having the willingness and the openness to allow the higher self to emerge and present itself to you. As you open yourself, you will start to experience a deep quiet in order to listen. Your mind will settle, your emotions will start to reset, and your heart will expand. It’s a feeling of reverence.
In prayer, you begin moving beyond the confines of the self that is preoccupied with so many things. Whoever you think you are, you are not. Because our thinking is finite, we cannot conceive with our minds the soul of who we are, which is infinite. The power in the process of prayer is that you go beyond your thoughts and your restricted mind, and you start to touch upon the reality of who you really are. It is as if the curtain is slowly being lifted, and there you are! From that place, you can ask, listen, and commune. It’s like the story of the monk who kept asking God, “What can I do to serve you?” One day, his inner voice said, “Shut up and let me love you.” When you are in the presence, you might realize that you need nothing. The loving presence in you knows your yearnings, your longings, and your wants, and they are being answered.
As famous Persian poet Rumi wrote, “You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in a drop.” As you pray, you are returned to that ocean within you. Your mere willingness to go into that state of reverence allows this to unfold. You will then emerge in your fullness. There are eight billion people on earth and eight billion ways to pray. Prayer does not limit itself to form. Homer, the great poet, sang for his heroes in the epics The Iliad and The Odyssey. Aren’t these forms of prayer? Rumi, Hafiz, and Kabir wrote endless poems and odes to the inner lover. John Lennon wrote the song “Imagine,” and wasn’t that a beautiful prayer for humanity? Beethoven wrote “Ode to Joy.” Michelangelo created the beautiful and awe-inspiring statue of David. Those were their prayers. What will yours be? Whatever moves your soul, inspires your awe, and awakens your spirit can be prayer. It doesn’t matter how you pray, only that you do. Let your heart take the lead and be your loving guide.
On Tuesday, January 18 at 8 p.m. ET on Zoom, join Agapi in conversation with Zainab Salbi, a celebrated humanitarian, author, and journalist—with a special appearance by Agapi’s sister, Arianna Huffington, Thrive Global founder and CEO—for an inspiring night exploring how you can harness the power of prayer in your life to find connection, peace and gratitude in the midst of our chaotic world. This event is brought to you by Well Enough, Random House’s wellness community, and Spiritual Thought, Random House’s community of seekers who embrace the nuances of our contemporary spiritual lives. Click here to read more about the event and purchase your tickets.