“Prayer is our one link with the real
– if by ‘prayer’ we mean simply an attention
both extreme and careless of any result,
an attention so pure that the one who practises it
is not even aware of doing so.”
~ Christian Bobin
The other day, I found the old, beautifully handmade prayer book of my grandmother, and skimmed through it. Prayer has always been to me something of a difficulty and I think the time has come to seriously address it. I’m intending to share prayers on this blog, making it the subject of a new category.
There seems to be two habitual ways of praying. The main one is to beg, implore, request – positively or negatively, asking for something objective, however refined this object can be. The second way is devotional, contemplative, but often turns out to be a repetitive, compelled form of recitation. Both forms are unsatisfactory, ranging from being naive, belief-based, self-concerned, to just lacking efficacy.
A good prayer is a totally non-objective one, at least in spirit if not in words. Rupert Spira says: “The turning of the mind away from the objective content of experience towards the source or essence from which it has arisen is the essence of meditation or prayer.” And Meister Eckhart says nothing different when stressing that the most powerful form of prayer is “the outcome of a quiet mind” or that there should only be “a pure going out of what is our own.” And such a mind, in his own words, is one that “is forever immersed in God’s most precious will, having left its own.” A prayer is an invitation to rest or abide in what is most essential in our being, and in that it can be equated with meditation, which is originally the Hindu or Buddhist form of prayer, or with the koan of zen.
A prayer comes from the heart, and points to something that is beyond words and meaning. Its only function is to throw you back to yourself, to silence. It must be devoid of demands, which can only be objective and an expression of separation. In prayer, the result precedes the wish. Rupert Spira sums it up in a beautiful way: “Let what you become be an expression of the source.” Love is all, and love is prayer.
“In the existence of your love,
I become non-existent.
This non-existence linked to you
is better than anything
I ever found in existence.”
Here is a beautiful prayer that I heard from Francis Bennett. It was originally composed by John Henry Newman, a 19th century poet and theologian, and is known as the ‘Fragrance Prayer’:
Dear Presence so divine
Help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with Your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly,
That my life may only be a radiance of Yours.
Shine through me, and be so in me
That every soul I come in contact with
May feel your presence in my soul
Let them look up and see no longer me, but only You!
Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine,
So to shine as to be a light to others;
The light, O Lord, will be all from You; none of it will be mine;
It will be you, shining on others through me.
Let me thus praise You the way You love best, by shining on those around me.
Let me preach You without preaching, not by words but by my example,
By the catching force of the sympathetic influence of what I do,
The evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You.
Introductory text and photo by Alain Joly
Prayer by John Henry Newman (1801-1890)
(Adapted by Francis Bennett)
This article is the first that appears in a new category called ‘Fragrance of Love’. This is the place to share a prayer or meditation – this fragrance of ourselves – as the main feature.
– ‘Conversations with Meister Eckhart’ – by Meister Eckhart & Simon Parke – (White Crow Books Ltd)
– ‘The Very Lowly: A Meditation on Francis of Assisi’ – by Christian Bobin – (New Seeds)