Lesson 4: Prayers

Now that we've learned about the gods, and learned some of Their stories, let's talk about how we can communicate with, not only Them, but spirits and our ancestors, too.

Prayer is the only thing nearly all religions have in common. Prayers, whether aloud or silent, are our way of speaking to our Mother and Father, the spirits around us, and the spirits of the past. Typically there are four kinds of prayer:

  • Blessings (Be it blessing an object, meal or person)
  • Petitions (Asking for some kind of help or intervention)
  • Praise (Prayers to acknowledge and celebrate the divine)
  • Invocation (Inviting the divine, spirits, etc to join you)

Let's take a closer look at each of these types of prayers.

Blessings
To bless something or someone is to set it apart as sacred.

When one thinks of blessings, one of the first things that probably springs to mind is saying grace over your meal, but that is only one kind of blessing. You can also bless people and animals, use blessings to dedicate items, ranging from Books of Shadows to athames to jewelry, for a specific purpose.

A prayer of blessing asks the Divine to remove any negative energy and replace it with positive and/or divine energies. This can be done to infuse your own energy into spells or tolls in addition to the divine energy asked for.

Blessings can also be used in conjunction with petitions for people and animals.

Petitions
Often times prayers can take the form of a petition. Petitioning is simply asking a deity for something (be it money, protection, love, ect).

Petitions are often accompanied by an offering as either a precursor (saying, essentially, "I know you will help me if it is your will, thank you in advance") or as thanks after your prayer is answered.

Remember, though, no matter how sincere you ask, no matter what offering you give, the gods may still deny your petition. There are any number of reasons why this may happen and it is not for us to question. The gods know what They are doing, far better than we ever can. This wisdom leads to our next form of prayer, praise.

Praise
Everyone likes to hear that they've done good, that they're wise and kind, and the gods are no exception. Prayers of praise may comprise of retelling great feats the recipient has preformed in myths, or maybe acts closer to home. Sometimes they are simply words of love, gratitude and respect brought together in a pleasing way.

Invocation
Invocation is the act of bringing something outside, in. Most often this is used during rituals to channel the Divine for a specific act, but is not limited to this. You may also invoke the elements to stand watch over you or any myriad of spirits to aid you in your endeavor.

How We Pray

Now that we've discussed the different reasons why we pray, lets delve into how we might make this communication.

Methods of prayer vary from group to group, from person to person. While one may feel perfectly comfortable praying a long litany aloud in public, another may prefer a silent prayer in the confines of their sacred space. So which one is the right way? Both are! As mentioned earlier, the main requirements of prayer are respect and honesty.

While there are no universal ways to pray, there are a few common positions one may use when praying. Try them all and see which ones feel most comfortable.

  • Kneeling: A classic prayer pose (which may call up images of christian services), the kneeling position (whether with or without a bowed head) shows we are submitting to the Divine's will, as well as showing we are humbled by the Divine presence.
  • Postulate: Another submissive type pose in which one kneels, bends at the waist and lowers their head nearly to the floor with their hands spread on either side of their head, once again showing we are humbled by the Divine.
  • The Orans Position: A prayer posture that was very common in ancient times is standing with your upper arms parallel to the ground, your elbows bent upward, and your hands open with palms forward. Standing in this position, you are again expectant, on your feet and waiting for the deity to come. You are ready to do the spirit's bidding, approaching as a subordinate without abasing yourself. You both give respect and expect to receive it. You hold up your hands in respectful greeting. You are clearly unarmed; you stand ready to give or to receive. This position is acceptable for most deities.
  • The Lotus Position: A position traditionally more common for meditation than for prayer, it also makes a great posture for praying. It is stable, and with much practice, can even become comfortable. Moreover, it is conducive to waiting; in fact, it conveys nothing better than expectant but patient waiting. It says, “Come when you will, and you will find me here.” It allows you to express respect without abasing yourself. In this position, you intertwine your legs like a pretzel, prop yourself up so that both knees touch the floor, straighten your spine, lower your chin a little, and put your hands in your lap.

Prayer Examples

Now that we have examined the basic types of prayers, and a few positions, lets take a look at a few samples of pre-written prayers.

An Altar Blessing
From the Mystic Light
To fertile Foundations
On the Shores of the waters
Of My Hopes and Dreams.

On the Wings of Wind
Of Light and Inspiration
With the Inner Flame Kindled
Divine spark and gleam.

Back to the Light
For Manifestation
Swiftly fulfilled
Move the Unseen.

By the Moon, the Stars, and the Sun
By the God, the Goddess and Ancient Ones
Blessed be this Altar and all here on
Good for all and harming none

Prayer for Rain
The rain will fall just like this (liquid offering) if you like my offering.

Prayer of Praise to the Mother Goddess
I speak of she who is beyond comparison,
the greatest of mothers
who gave birth to all wonders.
To us, you are Mother,
and to everything else.
The Mother of friends and the Mother of foes.
You do not distinguish between your children,
but spread your love freely
without judgment or preference.

— Serith, Ceisiwr: A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book

Invocation to Pan
O Great God Pan,
Beast and man,
Shepherd of goats and Lord of the Land,
I call you to attend my rites
On this most magickal of nights.
God of the wine,
God of the vine,
God of the fields and God of the kine,
Attend my circle with your love
And send Your blessings from above.
Help me to heal;
Help me to feel;
Help me to bring forth love and weal.
Pan of the forests, Pan of the glade,
Be with me as my magick is made!

Writing Your Own Prayers

While we at CoM offer a multitude of pre-written prayers on a variety of subjects, the most important and special prayers are the ones you write yourself. At first this may seem like a daunting task, but once we break down the basics, you'll soon find it an easy and fun task.

First off, what kind of prayer are you looking to write? Let's try writing a prayer of praise for practice.

Secondly, who are you praying to? The Mother? The Father? An ancestor or spirit? This intent is very important in directing your writing Find out as much as you can about who it is you are praying to. Do they have specific symbols, myths or titles? Work these into your prayer. Since we are writing a prayer of praise, let's choose a deity. How about Artemis? Artemis is a virgin goddess of the hunt, symbolized by the stag, crescent moon and bow. With this in mind, let's start by addressing Her.
Blessed Virgin of the Hunt,
Gentle Artemis, I come to you in honor.

Next, let's show Her this honor by relaying a few of Her feats.
Gentle maiden who showed compassion to Iphiegenia,
Clever goddess who fooled the Aloadai giants into slaying one another,
Vengeful huntress who taught King Lygdamis the ultimate lesson in respect.

The mentioning of past feats shows we respect what has been done (either in general or personally. You can include in this part prayers the deity has answered for you as well.)

Now to the meat of things, letting Her know why we come before Her now.
I come to You as a humble servant,
Seeking to exalt You, oh mighty huntress.
I come to sing Your praises, to honor You.
May my every deed bring joy and pleasure unto You.
Forever shall I praise She who is the great hunter, bow mistress, wonderful Artemis!

The praise section can go on as long as you see fit, layering praise upon praise.

Lastly, lets signify the end of our prayer. There are several phrases we can do this with, there is the Hebrew amen and the Proto-Indo-European tod estu, both meaning "so be it". Pagans of Native American descent (or any one following such a path) may use ho, and of course there's the familiar Masonic "so mote it be".

No matter which you choose, it should signify for you (and anyone with you) a finality to the prayer so it doesn't just end into nothingness.

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