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Prayer, to me, means opening your heart, listening to its yearnings, putting those wishes into words, and sending them out to the universe with the hope that they will be “heard.”  

I used to think that prayer was self-serving, that we need to embrace what we have in life and move on from there.  Prayer assumes that some aspect of the universe is “listening,” and I didn’t believe in a parental, anthropocentric universe. 

Over the years, though, I’ve come to think differently about prayer and incorporate prayer into my life.  Prayer always begins, for me anyway, with an expression of gratitude for all that I have. 

Duncan Sings-Alone, a Native American medicine man and Zen Buddhist priest, taught about two aspects of prayer in one of his workshops at Harmony Center.  He explained that masculine prayer involves expressing what one needs, asking for help with a dilemma or difficulty.  The feminine aspect of prayer is more receptive.  It involves sitting, opening, and waiting for an “answer.” 

Like other Native American teachings, the masculine and feminine aspects of prayer complement each other, and neither is more important than the other.  Prayer involves a dialogue with the spirit world, the unseen dimension.  It requires that we go inside ourselves to identify where we are at the moment and what it is that we need as a human being.  Once we ask for help, then we need to let go of any expectation, open to what might be offered, and listen with the ears of our hearts.   

Both aspects of prayer are necessary, the active asking and the receptive receiving.  Together they create a whole – prayer.