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So why would a postmodern yogi pray? For at least three reasons: One, because prayer softens the armor around your heart, and actually helps you receive grace...

by Sally Kempton

Let's start with full disclosure: I pray for parking spaces. In fact, I pray for a lot of things. Some of my prayers could be called spiritually correct. I pray for deeper love; I pray for enlightenment; I pray for people in trouble. I pray for my actions to be of benefit to all and for an end to human suffering.

But I'll also pray for a workshop to go well or for answers to a problem I can't solve. Sometimes I pray for the fun of it, or because I feel bad about something I've done and am hoping the universe will extend forgiveness. And, when I'm circling a block in downtown San Francisco or New York City, I pray for a space to open up for me. A lot of the time, it works.

Mostly though, I pray because it's the most direct practice I know for communicating intimately with the divine. Prayer creates connection, sometimes with almost shocking immediacy, to the grace-flow of the universe. That's why the great prayer practitioners, like Rumi or Teresa of Avila, tell us that it doesn't matter what state we're in, or even what our motive is when we begin prayer””as long as we're willing to give it a go. "If you can't pray sincerely, offer your dry, hypocritical prayer," Rumi writes, "for God in his mercy accepts bad coin."


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3 Responses to “Prayer for Postmoderns: Part 1”

  1. Barbara Litchfield

    Dear Sally,
    I’ve enjoyed your article immensely. I am with you when you describe prayer as that intimate relationship with God and noticing the sacredness of that relationship wherever and whenever you tune in. That’s a beautiful way to describe it.

    It is good for me to acknowledge when I petition that it isn’t always a “yes” or the way I want the end to go. Often it is a “no” as you say but if it always was a “yes” would we grow? Would we get to experience our Dark Night of the Soul? I think not. I myself struggled against those Dark Nights but have learned so much through them.

    I have to disagree with your statement, “Studies on healing prayer have yet to establish any sort of scientific correlation between prayer and healing though there is ample anecdotal evidence in favor.” I’ve been reading “Healing Words” by Larry Dossey, MD, who has cited many scientific studies on the healing effects of prayer, not only on humans but on fungus, rats, bacteria. Those are most compelling since obviously fungus, rats and bacteria cannot control the placebo effect with any kind of thought, positive or negative.

    Dossey also goes into a nice explanation of why there are the “yes” and “no” answers to those petitionary prayers. It’s a must read for anyone interested in prayer and praying.

    Wishing you the very best,

  2. Rosemary

    thank you Sally for this and part II on prayer. For some reason after years of sadhana, I was not praying regularly. But after reading your articles, I have noticed that I am enjoying prayer, which is mostly gratitude, but also a context for clarifying what I really want.

    The other thing is that I am having a divine dialog with my self – whisperings of love, especially when the mind wants to judge. This is truly marvelous!

    Happy New Year!

  3. Rosemary

    oh, and I love the praying for parking spaces – it really took the edge off praying right, if you know what I mean! Many years ago, a close friend told me about Sister Mary Frances, a catholic nun deity who is particularly tuned in to parking spaces (there’s a story but I don’t remember the details) – I picked this practice of praying to Sister Mary Frances back up after reading your article and it is without fail!


  1.  Sally Kempton: So why would a yoga practitioner or Buddhist meditator pray? | Leslie Hershberger

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