I was thinking about prayer last night and I had a couple of epiphanies. I’m in the middle of a rather intense ancestral elevation. This is a healing rite that takes nine days of regular prayers, offerings, and a very special, temporary ancestor shrine for a specific ancestor. It can be exhausting and there is a strict protocol (at least as an ancestor worker. I’m required to follow an ever-tightening noose of protocols and I’ve found it tends to be the same for anyone who works seriously, professionally with the dead). I generally balk and I’m very resistant to the protocols. Someone tells me ‘you must do this,’ and my general response is ‘fuck you’ and then the protocols grate and I get rather pissy about the whole thing. Needless to say, accommodating myself to those protocols has been an uphill battle. I think something changed for me though with that last night.
I had prepped everything, had gone through the opening protocols and prayers and I realized that once I pushed past that initial resistance, it wasn’t too bad. The energy of the thing carried me along pretty well. It’s more than that though. As I was sitting on the floor praying (the shrine for an elevation is laid on the floor purposely), I started chanting the Oration of Aristides in Greek, praying to Dionysos to help untangle the ancestral damage that I was hoping to address with this elevation. For about twenty minutes I changed the oration while silently praying to Dionysos and I felt something within myself shift and settle. I, who am so resistant to set prayer, found it difficult to stop saying the Oration and I realized something that I should have known all along. It hit me like an explosion in the brain. Submitting to the regular discipline of prayer is like pouring water into parched earth. It nourishes in a very crucial, foundational way. It’s important.
I think there’s something about regular prayers, including set prayers, that gentle the spirit, tame it, and bring it to the point of receptivity to the Gods. It hallows us inside and out, clears away the dreck and opens the way for Their Presence like nothing else. I think prayer may be most necessary when we are most resistant.
I get reminded of this again and again in my own practice, this time by Dionysos. Prayer is such a precious gift that we’ve been given. It is what builds and sustains not just the lines of communication to the Holy Powers, but our own hearts and minds in those relationships. It keeps us clean and ready and attentive. It works necessary spiritual muscles (and it’s something you can do even if you have nothing else to offer. In fact, I think it should be the long term, consistent ground on which offerings lie).
It’s important to take that time, to make that time to sit down with our Gods and pray. I don’t mean simply talking to Them, though that can be part of it too at its base. My mother once said that if the only prayer you ever say is ‘thank you,’ then that is enough. But more than conversation, which too often in our pop culture influenced world reduces the Gods to our level in our minds, (and sometimes that’s necessary I suppose), there are prayers of adoration and respect, of gratitude and acknowledgement that raise us up and make our souls fertile ground for devotion to flourish. Like anything else, it’s important to take the time, even when we don’t want to do so. It’s especially important then.