There is a reason that prayer and meditation are so prevalent across religious systems. Though the specific styles and philosophies behind these practices differ, they have proven to be effective means of shaping inner attitudes, mental patterns, and ways of being and interacting in the world. Prayer and worship can mean many different things to many different people. It does not necessarily mean reciting pre-written verses in quirky outdated language within the confines of a special building that is deemed to be holy. There is, of course, nothing wrong with following the guidelines of tradition. However, many religious individuals attest to the importance of thinking more fluidly about prayer and worship in order to make it more deeply personal. Similarly, we often think of meditation as some special thing with specific rules, rituals contexts, and spiritual goals. But in a broader sense, anybody who has ever sat in silence and taken a deep breath, even for a brief moment, just to collect their thoughts, has meditated.
One Universal God
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."
“[O]ne of the minimal requirements critical to the formation of a virtuous Muslim is the act of praying five times a day. The performance of ritual prayer (singular: salat; plural: salawat) is considered so centrally important in Islam that the question of whether someone who does not pray regularly qualifies as a Muslim has been a subject of intense debate among theologians. The correct execution of salat depends on the following elements: (a) an intention to dedicate the prayer to God; (b) a prescribed sequence of gestures and words; (c) a physical condition of purity; and (d) proper attire.”
“The repeated practice of orienting all acts toward securing God's pleasure is a cumulative process, the net result of which is, on one level, the ability to pray regularly and, on another level, the creation of a pious self.”
“The most important Jewish prayer is known by its first word in Hebrew, Shema. That means ‘hear.’ The full prayer in English is: ‘Hear, oh, Israel, the Lord, our God, the Lord is one.’ This prayer is considered the watchword of the Jewish faith and reflects the belief begun by Abraham that there is only one God."
“When you pray, make your prayer not a routine but a plea for mercy and a supplication before the Holy One, blessed be He. R. Eliezer said: When a man makes his prayer a routine, it is not supplication. What is meant by [one whose prayer is a] routine? R. Jacob bar Idi said in the name of R. Hoshaia: Anyone whose prayer is to him nothing but a heavy burden. The sages said: He who does not say it as one supplicating. Rabbah and R. Joseph both said: He who is unable to bring something fresh into it. Abba bar Avin and R. Hanina bar A vin both said: He who does not make an effort to pray [in the morning and in the evening at the proper time, namely] when the sun appears to stand still.”
“For this is the real and, if I may say so, the peculiarly Jewish object of mystical contemplation: The Name of God, which is something absolute, because it reflects the hidden meaning and totality of existence; the Name through which everything else acquires its meaning and which yet to the human mind has no concrete, particular meaning of its own.”
“As to meditation: This also is a field in which the individual is free. There are no set forms of meditation prescribed in the teachings, no plan as such, for inner development. The friends are urged—nay enjoined—to pray, and they also should meditate, but the manner of doing the latter is left entirely to the individual."
“This faculty of meditation frees man from the animal nature, discerns the reality of things, puts man in touch with God. This faculty brings forth from the invisible plane the sciences and arts. Through the meditative faculty inventions are made possible, colossal undertakings are carried out; through it governments can run smoothly. Through this faculty man enters into the very Kingdom of God."
"To teach your children about meditation, demonstrate to them how you meditate. Walk them through the process. So, for example, after your morning prayers, read a verse from the Writings out loud. Then take one of the sentences and ask yourself what it means and how you can apply it in your day-to-day life. Share out loud the thoughts that come to mind as you put questions to your spirit. Your child will witness the unfolding of your understanding. Encourage your child to do the same, perhaps by helping him or her formulate questions about the verse just read and suggesting possible answers."
“Meditation here is not reflection or any other kind of discursive thinking. It is pure concentration: training the mind to dwell on an interior focus without wandering, until it becomes absorbed in the object of its contemplation. But absorption does not mean unconsciousness. The outside world may be forgotten, but meditation is a state of intense inner wakefulness. This is not an exotic experience. Even at the university I had students whose concentration was so good that when they were studying, they would be oblivious to what was going on around them. If I called them by name, they might not even hear. Meditation is closely related to this kind of absorption, but the focus is not something external that one looks at or listens to, such as a microscope slide or lecture. It is consciousness itself, which means that all the senses close down.”
“Select a clean spot, neither too high nor too low, and seat yourself firmly on a cloth, a deerskin, and kusha grass. Then, once seated, strive to still your thoughts. Make your mind one-pointed in meditation, and your heart will be purified. Hold your body, head, and neck firmly in a straight line, and keep your eyes from wandering. With all fears dissolved in the peace of the Self and all actions dedicated to Brahman, controlling the mind and fixing it on me, sit in meditation with me as your only goal. With senses and mind constantly controlled through meditation, united with the self within, an aspirant attains nirvana, the state of abiding joy and peace in me."
“There is merit in studying the scriptures, in selfless service, austerity, and giving, but the practice of meditation carries you beyond all these to the supreme abode of the highest Lord."
“Enlightenment is not some good feeling or some particular state of mind. The state of mind that exists when you sit in the right posture is, itself, enlightenment. If you cannot be satisfied with the state of mind you have in zazen, it means your mind is still wandering about. Our body and mind should not be wobbling or wandering about. In this posture there is no need to talk about the right state of mind. You already have it. This is the conclusion of Buddhism."
“[Ordinarily] you have no power to accept your difficulties, but in the zazen posture which you have acquired by long, hard practice, your mind and body have great power to accept things as they are, whether they are agreeable or disagreeable.”
“Your breathing should flow gracefully, like a river, like a water snake crossing the water, and not like a chain of rugged mountains or the gallop of a horse…Each time we find ourselves dispersed and find it difficult to gain control of ourselves by different means, the method of watching the breath should always be used.”
“One of the most common soul practices is prayer. One tends to find prayers in theistic traditions in which there is a clear notion of a separate and personal deity. In non-theistic traditions, like Buddhism, Jainism, or many forms of Hindu yoga, we are more likely to find another type of practice, meditation, which is not necessarily directed at any external deity (although it can be).There are numerous forms of prayer. Among these are petitionary prayer (request for something to happen), liturgical prayer (communal praise or formal worship of a deity), and contemplative prayer (communing, often without words or images, with a deity or some ultimate state).”
“Meditative systems differ widely. They have different goals and utilize different techniques. We can, for example, distinguish between those systems that intensify concentration, those that utilize visualization, those that involve body movement, and those that entail the special form of self-awareness referred to as mindfulness[…]Meditation and mystical practices temporarily deactivate a person’s accustomed way of experiencing the world. As a result, experience appears novel, fresh, unaccustomed. This alteration in our accustomed ways of making sense of the world introduces the element of surprise—the triggering mechanism for the emotions of curiosity and wonder.”
“Meditation—the practice of dialogue with oneself—seems to have held a place of honor among Socrates’ disciples. When Antisthenes was asked what profit he had derived from philosophy, he replied: “The ability to converse with myself.” The intimate connection between dialogue with others and dialogue with oneself is profoundly significant. Only he who is capable of a genuine encounter with the other is capable of an authentic encounter with himself, and the converse is equally true. Dialogue can be genuine only within the framework of presence to others and to oneself. From this perspective, every spiritual exercise is a dialogue, insofar as it is an exercise of authentic presence, to oneself and to others."