How to pray
When you believe in nothing, or something, or everything
Start without a greeting. No salutation, no “Dear God,” no enlightened address to the universe itself, no terms of endearment or humbled adoration. Who are you to label the infinite? Infinite dust or infinite spirit, it doesn’t belong to you. You belong to it.
Talk to the air like you’re talking to your best friend, because maybe you are.
Talk out loud, letting the awkward words hang and drop, tumble out, stagger forth from your empty mouth. You are drunk on the sharp red wine of life. You are breathing out the perfume of love and brokenness.
Rest your head on the chair and pray in silence. Let your lips move with the shape of words you can’t bear to say out loud. Let each breath carry out a morsel of despair. Give a narrative to the burdens you carry. Fill your inner room with your own voice speaking each day’s impossible weight.
Keep at it until the whole thing simmers into a thick elixir, a single thrumming word, a heartbeat. Maybe it’s something like help help help help help. Maybe it’s a groan. Maybe it sounds like yes. Maybe it’s a high-pitched note that could mean joy or horror.
You can kneel, or curl up in a ball, or sink into child’s pose, or lay flat on the floor with your face in your hands.
After all, you are only a child. A child needs rest.
What is prayer?
Prayer is unrolling the mat and sliding your fingers and feet along it, and feeling your muscles stretch and your hair hang down, and allowing the pop of your hip and the crack of your knee and the tension in your shoulders to be as sacred as incense smoke mingling with sun-laced dust motes in an ancient cathedral.
Prayer is pouring a glass of juice and filling a bowl with crackers and sinking into a soft blanket and getting lost in a story and allowing each moment of serenity to be the holy communion it is.
Prayer is sobbing on the phone. Prayer is listening on the other end.
When you go outside to smoke a cigarette and you pay for your escape with shame, that is not prayer. But when you let your shame rise up with the curls of smoke, when you allow love and nicotine to mingle in your lungs, that is prayer.
When you stand up, when you take the deep closing breath, when you roll up the mat, when you open the door and walk into time’s rushing demands, that is prayer.
And when a leaf’s green flash catches your eye, when a friend’s voice echoes, when you remember movement in sore muscles, when you see a tiny mushroom, when sunlight blinds you, when someone says, Yes, me too, when music helps you carry grief: that is the infinite praying to you.