Understanding Prayer as Practice

This article is based on a talk I gave at a retreat for people of diverse but mostly non-devotional practices. It is intended as an overview of some (not all) of the ways prayer can be understood, particularly aimed at people who are not in a theistic tradition or may not be familiar with or comfortable with prayer as part of a contemplative wisdom practice.

Most people are generally familiar with Christian prayer: formal or informal words spoken to God, asking for things or giving thanks for things. But prayer is a very layered and interesting spiritual practice that can go beyond rote recitations or a transactional relationship with God.

1. Prayer as intention

One very basic useful function of prayer is to state intention. Clear statements of intention are powerful, and are a very neglected part of many people's practice - indeed they are often missing even from the practice of beginners within theistic traditions! Institutional religions often help people along by giving them common formulas: the prayer before meals, the bedtime prayer, the group prayers offered in church or Bible study class. Even if one says ones own words in these prayers, they are still quite often formulaic.

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On the nature of suffering in the Four Noble Truths

This is an excerpt dealing with the Four Noble Truths (as presented in the Dhamma Chakkana Pavattana Sutta) from the chapter on Buddhism in my unpublished book Vehicles of Hope, completed in 1993.


From his rejection of extreme practices, Gautama passed via his own "middle way", to an exposition of the "noble truths of suffering". They embody the core of his causal conception of the nature of bondage and its end. Since they constitute the very foundation stones of the entire edifice of Buddhist teachings, embodying their central promise, principle and path, it is necessary to dwell upon these truths at some length.

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Problemness, No Problemness

Just for fun, I thought I would write about a part of meditation practice that has always given me trouble. Over time, I worked out a general approach that helps  me keep practicing. Although I personally tend to map this domain using the Theravada “nanas” map (the Knowledges of Suffering --- including Fear, Misery, Disgust, Desire for Deliverance, and Reobservation --- through Equanimity), I’ve generalized it enough that I think the ideas are fairly universal and familiarity of that map isn’t necessary.

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Chris' Journal - Part 1

This is my online mediation journal, posted in several parts. It was originally posted entirely on Kenneth Folk Dharma on the dates you will see on each post listed below. This was the first online journal started at KFD. Kenneth Folk somehow talked me into the process. There were times when it felt naked, raw, and too personal to be posted on a public forum on the Internet. I did it anyway, under what is essentially my real name. Hopefully, it helped encourage many of the succeeding online journals that followed and that continue to be started and maintained today, on the new KFD, here on Awakenetwork.org, and in other places online.

Read more: Chris' Journal - Part 1

Chris' Journal - Part 2

 Struggling through, slogging through, second and early third path. Lots of odd visual and auditory stuff showing up. Trying to lead a somewhat normal home and working life while being dragged through the practice by unseen tidal forces.

Read more: Chris' Journal - Part 2