Reflection: What is prayer to you?

minaret-lo-resNearly two years ago, I was asked to answer this question (in 250 words or less) in preparation for the 10th annual, Muslim-Christian “Building Bridges” seminar, sponsored by the Archbishop of Canterbury (Dr. Rowan Williams) in collaboration with Georgetown University. Each participating scholar-practitioner was asked to answer this question for herself/himself, and so I was challenged to come to a formulation that was both concise and true to my experience as a worshipper in training.  Even though the basic text of the reflection below is now nearly two years old, it still rings true to my experience and motivates me to take the practice of prayer more seriously in the chaos of my life.

The experience of prayer for me is forever changing, for I have found that it is always textured by my own fluctuating condition and state. Underlying all this, however, throbs a constant mystery of connectivity and reciprocal remembrance: my remembrance of God and God’s remembrance of me. In one of the Divine, theopathic utterances attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (may God’s blessings and peace be ever upon him and all of the messengers), God is believed to say, “I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he remembers Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than that. If he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length; if he comes to Me walking, I rush to him.” For me, then, prayer is the rope or cord that keeps me consciously connected to my source; remembering that, in Arabic, the word for God’s attribute of “mercy” derives from the word for “womb,” I see prayer as the spiritual umbilical cord that is never cut, always available, always ready to nourish and sustain us.