Reflections on Prayer
by Sherry Morgan
Sometimes people ask me, “What is prayer?”
That happens to be a question I ask the participants who attend the primary program I teach, Exploring the Core Basis of Prayer. Everyone has a different answer, but there is a common thread – that prayer has something to do with communication. That’s where we begin our experiential exploration. People discover that prayer has more to do with conversation than with communication. Prayer is meant to be more like a dialog than a one-way monolog.
Spirit exists in, around and throughout all things, including we humans of course. It is all the same spirit, but the manifestation of spirit into form gives each form particular characteristics, gifts and challenges. Unique to humans is our cognitive mind, which is a great gift to help us get along in life – but, our mind is also a culprit when trying to connect with Spirit.
The main problem with our cognitive mind is that we feel separate, alone and fearful. Our cognitive minds are prone to question or doubt everything, including our own validity. It is a very real problem with us as humans. Cedar trees don’t wonder if they ought to shed their leaves in winter. The fox doesn’t wonder if it should be a beaver instead. The clouds don’t wonder whether they should let the wind carry them. We, humans, are often lost, stressed, and confused about who we really are and we doubt what our gifts are, or even if we have any at all.
We all have gifts! Prayer can help a lot in discovering that we’re not alone and that there is much help for us to access our authentic expression. In prayer, we discover that Spirit knows us better than we know our self. Connecting with Spirit helps us to learn who we are… our authentic selves, not the selves that have been shaped by the good/bad, right/wrong, should/shouldn’t conditioning of our upbringing and our culture.
And, we all have challenges! And this is another place where prayer can be such a great help. For some people ‘prayer’ is a dirty word. I like to help people experience prayer in a way that it is seen and felt as something very beneficial to them. The root of the word ‘religion’ is “to bind back, to bind together.” Prayer is meant to help with that. We need only learn how to connect with these other-than-human spirit beings, how to relate with them, how to ask for help, and how to distinguish guidance from our overly active minds that are so prone to doubt. We shed what doesn’t belong to us and come to know who we truly are and what is important for us.
The way I’ve been taught about prayer (and of course, therefore, the way I teach) has us connect and relate with aspects of Nature directly. I don’t tell people how to pray. I lead experiential work that helps people discover their own connectedness and relatedness, and the love and guidance that is there for them. This is our birthright!
My first teacher of prayer was an Ojibwa elder by the name of Carolyn Oliver. Following prayer in the way she instructed turned my notion of prayer on its head and transformed my life! Her instructions were to go outside in nature every morning and every evening and give thanks to everything I could witness or think of in nature to give thanks for. She told me that this is how her people gather medicine for their lives. I offered these prayers for an hour or more twice every day for a full year. My negative mind became a mind full of gratitude. My fears became full-heartedness from the experience of connection and relationship with the world around me. I received guidance regularly to help me on my journey and my gifts began to emerge. I became full of joy. I highly recommend this way of gathering medicine to anyone.
After a vision quest she led me on, I began to receive messages to teach people about prayer. I thought this a great idea but had no idea what to do! I wrote to another teacher, a Huichol elder shaman in Mexico, and asked him. He asked me to return to Mexico and began to teach me how to teach others. In 1998 this elder introduced me to a Náhuatl elder shaman as well. This elder recognized my Náhuatl soul connection and with my need to be initiated as a Quiatlzques (Weather Worker) in that tradition. Since my initiation, I have been going to Mexico every year to offer prayers and ceremony. In 2001 I was given instructions to awaken a sacred mountain in Ontario that has a strong connection to weather there. Twice a year a group of us visit this sacred mountain to offer ceremony and prayer. The prayers and ceremonies as a Weather Worker in Mexico and in Ontario for the past 20 years have taught me how our long-ago ancestors lived in harmony with the world, and of course, we are learning this for our selves now too. Prayer and ceremony are antidotes to our overly active minds.
Aspects of Nature are waiting to help us all. They are waiting to be asked for their help. They receive us with such love, compassion and understanding… and we feel this! We begin to heal from our experience of separateness, aloneness, our doubts and fears.
Prayer has helped me to find my calling. I love to help people experience their own connection with their hearts and their own guidance. My healing purpose is to spread joy and it is certainly working.