“My God is both personal and impersonal. By this I mean that though in His infinite nature He is formless, all pervading, I have come to have a relationship with God that is so close, so sweet, so profound and blissful, that it is deeply personal.” – Sri Daya Mata, IN SWEET COMPANY: CONVERSATIONS WITH EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN ABOUT LIVING A SPIRITUAL LIFE
Along with everything else he gave us, Emerson penned a simple and astute definition of prayer: “Contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view.” Given his interest in Eastern religion, his words now remind me of a line from a Sanskrit chant that pays homage to the transcendental aspect of God — that speaks of God as being “beyond quality and thought.”
But when I first came across his definition of prayer, I couldn’t relate to it; It felt to me as if the God Emerson prayed to was too impersonal, too detached for me. I believed his words were true, but they were not “my words.” Not soft enough around the edges. My experience of prayer is intimate, personal. It’s about relationship; it’s a conversation — mostly a one-way heart-to-heart, but a conversation nonetheless. “The highest point of view” is pretty rarefied. I like to think that when an “A-ha!” is dropped into my head it’s an answered prayer rather than a “point of view.”
Still, Emerson’s words drew me. I thought about what lifts me above the fray, what my highest thought might be: That I am, we are, unconditionally loved by God, loved in spite of our faults and foibles, understood by God to be works in progress. When I am aware of this — when I really “get” this about myself and others, when I experience this as a “fact of Life ,” it feels prayerful. Emerson’s words took on new meaning for me, then.