|my watercolor version|
1. Prayer is anything which helps us pay attention to God.
2. Prayer is a relationship between my true self and God's true self with a reflection that leads to growth.
If prayer is something we do in relationship with God, and God knows us infinitely better than anyone, AND loves us more than anyone, what we have to wrestle with, to face, is finding and being our true selves with God. One of the ways I am challenged is to show up precisely who I am and exactly where I am in that moment, and be completely open and receptive of unconditional love and complete acceptance. This is something, as a human, I find greater than my heart can accept and my mind can comprehend.
The need to understand myself and be aware of where I am in the moment is what zen meditation, my psychology degree, and years of therapy (attempt to) open to this relationship of prayer. These things are unbelievably helpful in my relationship with God because I can't begin to relate to someone that knows me better than myself unless I make the effort, have the courage, and accept who I am. Zen meditation and mindfulness training are essential in filtering through the noise of our culture and the pull of the media that take me away from who I am and where I am RIGHT NOW.
I am probably not alone in this, but it feels scary to type these words, what I need from God most times in prayer, is acceptance and unconditional love. A few weeks ago, when we started the opening prayer in Ordinary Life class, I noticed myself bowing my head and tilting it slightly to the right. Something made me realize that I was posturing myself like the Prodigal Son in Rembrandt's painting. Thanks to Henri Nouwen, I have a wonderful relationship with the meaning of the painting, from his book "Return of the Prodigal Son." What I relate to, and literally feel, now when I take this posture, is the warm embrace of the Father who loves his child, who's waited for his return, who embodies the love of both male and female in each gender's hands glowing in warm light, strength, and tenderness.
This provides me with peace and love with a gentle bow and tilt of the head, anytime, anywhere.