Deep to on High: Traveling the Way of the River

A Wiccan priestess/UU minister transplanted from Central Pennsylvania to Portland, Oregon, helping those who seek intimacy with the One Who is Many—Male, Female, Both, and Neither—through ritual, seasonal observance, mythology, divination, and examination of current events.

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A Witch’s Practice of Prayer: Why Not? (Part 3)

Many of my friends and colleagues who identify as Pagan are suspicious of prayer, as I’ve mentioned earlier.

 

Why?

Perhaps it feels like treating the gods (or however you conceive of your concept of Divinity) like a vending machine. You just pick out what you want, and ask for it with little more than a few coins lost to the venture.

Perhaps it reminds you of rote prayers from your childhood, or worse, abusive or just plain boring childhood “faith” and religious experiences.

Perhaps prayer seems like “talking with a God who isn’t there,” or isn’t even a concept in which you believe or which you have experienced for yourself.

Some of us feel self-conscious about prayer, “not knowing what to say,” not knowing “how to do it right,” or how to “do it” at all.

Some of us have suffered at the hands of hypocritical religious leaders, and have found their prayers meaningless and empty.

These are all perfectly valid reasons for being suspicious of prayer, and I respect them all. If it’s not your jam, it’s not your jam. I’m just sharing my own experiences here.

The thing is that I don’t experience prayer as any of these things.

Why not?

I once heard a High Priestess in an Alexandrian coven say, simply, “She is. I am. And most importantly, it works.”

Prayer, like any consistent spiritual practice, changes the pray-er, the practitioner. I know, in as much as I know anything about twenty-five years of active seeking and yearning for the Spirit of Life, that prayer changes me and my consciousness. And that, after all, changing consciousness at Will, is one of the definitions of magic.

I mentioned in my last post that my head and my heart and my belly don’t always get along in these matters.

Do I know to Whom I’m praying? Is there even, really a Whom at all?

I have no idea.

But ideas don’t necessarily have a place in my prayer life.

It is change that has a place. It is fruitfulness. It is wisdom. It is trusting in the ripple effects that changing one person can have in the world.

My heart is devotional.

My belly, my guts, my “Second brain,” as scientists sometimes call it now, is willing to lead me where my front-brain would fear to tread.

And most of all, my prayer is MINE.

Just as your prayer is YOURS.

You are entirely sovereign in your practice of prayer, just as I am in mine.

Sometimes my prayer is mantra-like, with repetitive phrases and images that imprint on me the power of the Cardinal Directions and Virtues of my tradition. Sometimes it reminds me of the magic of the degrees into which I have been initiated.

Sometimes it is simple silence before a candle and some incense. Or before a statue of a deity with whom I have a particular relationship.

Sometimes it is just listening.

I must say, though, that those kinds of prayer are all deeply personal, all about changing my own self, and trusting the ripple miracles of life.

But what about invocation?

What about the prayers we offer in public.

I am a Unitarian Universalist minister. I open services with calls to worship or invocation. I offer pastoral prayers at the bedsides of those who are suffering or for congregations whose members are having hard times (which is all the time). And I offer benedictions at the end of each service I do.

“As in all things in the household of Earth, we embrace for a while and then let go…” I begin my benedictions the same way each time, with words I learned from a comrade in faith, words that sum up much of the human condition.

We embrace for a while and then let go…

But even in our letting go, we remain sacred, divine beings, each called to be one more redeemer, if you will excuse the Abrahamic language, one more being called to bring forth the light and the dark that is within our hearts so they may create beauty and strength, honor and humility, power and compassion, mirth and reverence among us.

We embrace for a while and then let go…

By the sacred, and public words of prayer, I hope to change not only myself, but to offer a means, a doorway, a portal through which all those who hear my voice may be changed, as well.

When I invoke a deity, or evoke one for Aspecting, I am similarly asking that we be aware of the sacred.

When I call a Cardinal Direction in public ceremony, I often begin, “Spirits and Power of the _____, we hear your call and call to you…”

It is not we who initiate prayer.

It is the Universe’s call we answer with our own presence, our own essential selves.

And sometimes that presence is a presence of grief, of need, or of desire. Sometimes it is a presence of thanksgiving, of joyous thanksgiving.

Prayer is simply the act of bringing what we have into an awareness of the call we feel deep into our hearts, the seeking and yearning and longing for our own wisest selves.

Prayer is, indeed, a response to the gorgeous, terrifying, glorious realities of the Divine Life within, beyond, through, and far outside us.

That is why I pray. Because I cannot not respond. If the Lover leans in for a kiss, who am I, the Beloved, to withhold that kiss? I am a consenting, sovereign being, but I, at least, am one who yearns toward the kiss, and prayer is, for me, a huge part of that embrace.

Next up, the miracles prayer accomplishes and how to begin a practice, especially if we experience obstacles along the way (i.e., if we are human.). See you there!

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I am an initiated priestess in the tradition of Stone Circle Wicca, and began my Pagan studies in 1990. I have led rituals for thousands of people, in ceremonies as large as 400 in a Circle of Standing Stones under dozens of branching oaks and tulip poplars, and in rituals as small as a couple of folks in a living room. I am an affiliated UU minister with the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, GA. I also provide spiritual direction—what I call spiritual accompaniment or sacred conversation—and have for over 15 years. Over that time, I have been with individual people of many faiths and none as they explored, encountered, and shared their relationships with the Divine. You are welcome to my spiritual accompaniment page for a fuller invitation.  

Comments

  • Natasha Aiken
    Natasha Aiken Friday, 09 February 2018

    This Witch’s Practice covers an exceptionally straightforward approach to rehearse enchantment and witchcraft without the prerequisite for long formal ceremonies Buy Assignment Online. This Witch’s Practice covers a critical theme that most Witch’s Practice on witchcraft don't discuss, even those which come at witchcraft from the point of view of a religious practice.

  • Catharine Clarenbach
    Catharine Clarenbach Tuesday, 15 May 2018

    Yes, April, I really like your way of looking at that. The praying that changes ourselves, is so important, especially since we know that everything that changes us, changes the world.

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