In Sweet Company

In Sweet Company

The Spirit of Prayer

“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.
Your thoughts?

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posted December 11, 2010 at 10:43 am

Well, the wondrous thing about the Infinite is that it IS all things to all people: personal, impersonal and a range of concepts for some that are beyond the conceivable imaginations of others. As such, it would seem all paths are paths to God, be they aligned with religious organizations, well known or obscure philosophies, or personalized to just one individual. Plenty of room (as well as tolerance and acceptance) for everybody!

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Margaret Guthrie

posted December 11, 2010 at 5:23 pm

I agree with Peter’s observation “it would seem all paths are paths to God.” And Margaret’s phrase “we are all works in progress.” Because we do have second chances; if not in this life, then the next.

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