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What is prayer?

What is prayer?

When most of us think of prayer, we think of talking to the Divine—G-d, the universe, Allah, goddess, or however else we might name that which is More than us.

We remember times of asking for help, offering praise, confessing the ways we’ve missed the mark, or thanking the Divine for the good things we’ve received. Perhaps we even sometimes just talk to the Divine about what is happening in our lives as we sift through the struggles and challenges of our days.

These are all good things! And yet, it is only one part of what I believe prayer has to offer us.

Like any conversation, talking is only half of the communication. If we truly want to be in conversation with the Divine, listening is an equally important part of the equation.

How do we listen well, though, when we so seldom (if ever) hear the voice of the Divine in a clear, auditory way? This is a skill that few of us are taught or have any practice with.

The listening part of prayer requires learning to let the usual busy chatter of our minds slide away so that we can hear the Divine’s “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) in our noisy world.

Contemplative prayer, a form of meditation, is a means for learning to do this, and prayer or meditation beads can be one way to access this type of contemplative space.

Many forms of meditation and contemplative prayer use some kind of focus—our breath, a mantra, a prayer word, or short, repeated prayers—as a means of drawing our focus back from our mind’s noisy chatter to that stillness within where we can listen for the Divine.

Prayer beads can offer us that place of focus through the repetition of short prayers (or mantras or a prayer word) with each bead and through the grounding that feeling the beads sliding through our fingers can bring to our flighty minds.

A love of (and desire for) this kind of listening, contemplative prayer is what inspires me to make and offer prayer and meditation beads to allow others to engage in this kind of contemplative listening for the voice of the Divine.

Learning to listen in this way completes the circle of communication and allows prayer to become all that it can be.

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