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Is There Desire in Your Prayer?


A prayer without desire in it, a prayer without sincerity in it, a prayer without soul in it, a prayer without Spirit in it is a fruitless prayer. – Charles and Cora Fillmore, Teach Us to Pray

I was raised with prayer. Prayer before meals, prayers in church, and prayers to give thanks. Prayers were memorized, said “off the cuff,” and celebrated as songs. Prayers were danced, prayers were silent, and uttered in different languages. The night before my first communion I was VERY nervous I would say my prayers wrong during the ceremony, so I went to my mother explaining my worries, and she said, “It’s ok, God doesn’t care what words you use, God just wants you to pray.”

While my idea of God and prayer has changed since then, the sentiment of my mother’s words have remained – my true prayer lies at the deepest part of my being. I believe that’s what she meant when she said “God just wants…” I don’t believe “God wants,” since God isn’t a human, but I believe that I desire, that I experience yearning and longing, which is the activity of God, the Divine, or Holy Spirit you might say. The key though, is to hear what is at the deepest part of my being, to listen to those longings – for “the desire of the soul.” Sometimes I may not even be aware of what that is, yet I do know desire, longing, or yearning is the life force that drives my prayer.
The word “desire” has gotten beaten up a little. At times it has been infected with thoughts of attachment, fear and not “enoughness.” It is certainly something I have gotten stuck in on more than one occasion – my brain working overtime as a hamster wheel of lack and anxiety. It can be clinging to a something that eventually suffocates me.

The challenge is if our basic needs such as safety, belonging, or worthiness are UNMET, we become fixated on substitutes, which guarantees we will never know the healthy aspects of desire. Like drinking salt water to quench our thirst – the substitutes never satisfy the deeper need. We feel a disconnect from others, maybe devoid of our own or others’ inherent goodness, and this creates tremendous pain, stopping us from living a deeper sense of presence and love.

We may continue to chase after substitutes that can’t fill hollowness, and desire moves into craving. If our sense of neediness and the futility of our grasping grows, we heap on another layering of self-loathing. The end result is a LOOP – not only are we caught in the pain of craving, we are condemning ourselves for it. We must remove the layer of shame so that can begin to work with the deeper needs of safety, belonging, satisfaction and connection – in order to touch our true desire.

Desire without sincere expression is fruitless though. Expressing that yearning can be through song, specific words spoken aloud or for the sake of our world, compassionate service – putting feet on those deepest desires. Sometimes I have to unhook my neocortex brain and possibly let go of attachments to specific words. The root of the word “sincere” means, pure, unmixed, and genuine. This means I bring my WHOLE being – thoughts, feelings, beliefs, fears, joys and all that is alive to the altar of my prayers. To be sincere is to show up free of pretenses, and embrace my flaws and vulnerabilities, making them part of my yearnings.

For me, however, as I have learned to still my mind AND body, I have discovered that at the root of desire is really a sacred longing for union, for coming closer to an experience of my Christ nature, my True Self, Most Noble Self – my Inherent Goodness. I understand it as a spiritual longing, an impulse for the “part,” which is me, to rejoin the Whole. It is the most natural of yearnings because as I rejoin the Whole, Spirit is made manifest and I am brought closer to the heart of another. I don’t hide the cracks of my heart created by life experiences, but rather I allow the flaws to be used as doorways for listening to my deepest longings.

I don’t hide the cracks of my heart created by life experiences, but rather I allow the flaws to be used as doorways for listening to my deepest longings, so that I might be transformed. Isn’t that ultimately what prayer is about? There is a Tibetan story that says one who faces life as a journey of transformation always has a heart with cracks because it is through these cracks that the mysteries enter. These mysteries are our deepest longings, and to cover those over perhaps closes us off to our own transformation, to our own prayers.

In the end I offer you the same motherly advice: I don’t know that I care so much about what words you use, I just want you to pray – with desire.

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