I am not very good at making prayers. I tend to be quite skeptical that saying prayers can really work, so it helps me to think of examples of how prayer has worked. A friend of mine once told me the story of a woman who was witnessing a serious car accident where another person was seriously injured. As she was sitting in her car, stuck in the traffic jam caused by the accident, she began to pray for the injured. It seems that the unconscious person sensed her prayers for him and experienced her as a being of light. I don’t remember all the details but, if I recall, correctly the injured person remembered the license plate number of the woman’s car and was somehow able to locate and contact her afterwards to express his deep gratitude.
There have also been studies that have shown how hospital patients who were kept in prayer by a prayer circle group had a better rate of recovery than those who didn’t.
Intellectually, I can understand that prayer works because the mind is very powerful. But, in spite of all these inspiring stories, my mind is still quite resistant and I find it quite hard to bring prayers alive. I have found I need to keep it very simple and do my prayers in little steps, one at a time, for example:
1) Think the wonder of buddha nature, the ultimate truth.
2) Relate to it personally in the form of a buddha—a sublime being of light, wisdom and love.
Imagine this buddha to be actually there.
Spend some moments trusting he or she is actually there.
5) Invite him to come into my being and awareness.
6) Consider her as a special guest and express appreciation for her presence.
7) Think thoughts like “Thank you for caring and being here,” “Look at me,” “Help me,” Come into my life,” Guide and inspire me,” or “Please bless my being.” When I get tired, I remind myself to let go and just rest for a moment before trying again.
At the end I try to appreciate my effort and trust that this process of bringing buddha to my mind works and will slowly have a positive effect on my mind. I conclude by dedicating any benefit of my efforts to the good of all.
Sometimes I try to practice this with the Stanza of Offering, which is used to open one’s shrine in the morning, that I wrote about a few days ago. It helps me to think of prayer as simply a way of directing my mind towards virtue and to generate positive thoughts like: “May I be well. May others be well. May the World be well.” I cannot expect to make it fully real right now but if I just keep trying, I am confident that will slowly happen.