Saturday, April 13, 2013

Primer on Mormon Prayer, by Adam Miller

A religious life is a life of prayer. Don’t skimp on this or, no matter how white your sepulcher, your insides will always just be full of dry bones.

How to pray:

1. Pray for at least twenty minutes, at least once a day, preferably in the morning.

2. Sit with your back straight, your hands nested in your lap, and your head only slightly bowed.

3. Aim for a 10-to-1 ration of listening to yammering. Given twenty minutes, say what you have to say in the first two minutes, then shut up and listen.

4. The Spirit can speak in all kinds of ways, but take as your baseline the classic Mormon expectation that the Spirit will manifest in your bosom or gut. Physiologically, direct you attention to the area just behind and below your navel. Simply attend, without interruption, to whatever bodily sensations show up there. Direct your attention to that single spot in waiting and expectation. This is what it means to “watch in prayer.”

5. Whenever your attention wanders – which it will do regularly, consistently, and almost immediately – note without judgment whatever you were daydreaming about (“Thinking about lunch-plans.” Or, “Thinking about the inconsiderate thing my husband did.”) and then, without elaboration, bring your attention firmly back to your gut and continue listening for the Spirit. You’ll get better with practice. But, in the meanwhile, you’ll also get a master-class in the content and extent of your own fallen, distracted, and profoundly self-absorbed nature.

6. The most obvious manifestations of Spirit include the following feelings in your bosom. Watch, in particular, for these: (1) warmth, (2) the rise and fall of your diaphragm in connection with the breath of life, (3) a spreading stillness, (4) a recession of your need, like the tide going out, to compulsively impose your will on the course of the day and on the people you’ll meet, (5) a willingness to, in general, pay attention and serve, and (6) the distinct impression that you are, in fact, regardless of circumstance, alive.

7. Learn how to pay attention to the Spirit in this same way throughout the day, as often as your able, whatever you’re doing. This is called “praying always.” The extension of this attentive, prayerful listening into the business of your daily life is the sum and substance of “conversion.”

1 comment:

  1. Most LDS have a testimony by the method of the Holy Ghost, as it’s called. They haven’t seen Jesus Christ or God in their own personal first vision. On the other hand, Joseph Smith did witness to the world that he had beheld God the Father and his son Jesus Christ. Every LDS apostle since him has been called as a "special witness." Since members aren't special witnesses, they must rely on trusting that the 12 apostles (actually 15, counting the first presidency) have seen and witnessed the reality of God. Instead, lay members must trust and verify using the method of the Holy Ghost, which is given in the LDS scripture.

    D&C 9:8-9 “Study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong.”

    The burning bosom is well known in LDS circles, and most members feel it is unique to them. However, other people the world over have felt a burning heart and enlightened mind when studying and pondering or meditating over their particular doctrines. Just like the Mormons, the Hindus have the chakras, some of which have manifestations of elation, lifting and pure knowledge while meditating. For example, during meditation/mantra recitation (prayer), a flame is felt inside of the heart (part of the heart chakra), from which the mantra rings out; and this cooperates with the brow and crown (mind) chakras for realizing the "Clear Light". Islam has the "hajj experience" and Islamic transformation that are essentially just as strong or stronger than the Mormon burning, as exampled by those who feel so emboldened as to commit suicide for their testimony. Other Christian churches have spiritual manifestations in feelings, tongues and miracles.

    So if Hindus can have a heart chakra about polytheistic gods like Vishnu that burns so bright and large it feels like a flaming basketball, and if an Islamic fundamentalist can feel so sure of his bosom swelling experience making him willing to detonate himself, how sure can I be that my experience is truth and the Hindu's is false?

    If the Holy Ghost method is working in all various world religions and testifying of contradictory beliefs, then what can I trust? Mormons are sure their experiences are more real, their special witnesses more trustworthy. After all, the apostles have literally seen Jesus, right?

    Without belaboring it, it has become a well documented fact that there is credible and frustrating controversy surrounding claims made by Joseph Smith, regarding the first vision, how he translated the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham, and how he practiced plural marriage with teens and married women. However, most members dismiss them because they feel strongly that the history is muddled with discrepancies that they feel leaves them a gap large enough to allow the Holy Ghost to work through. The muddle is a way for God to test their faith.

    If I have to muddle through my own church's history, how can I claim my faith is better than the muddled history and faith of Hindus or Muslims or other Christians? If my burning bosom is no more powerful than the heart chakra, the hajj or the burning tongue/flame of other religions, how can I feel secure that the muddled Mormon history is really witnessed by the Holy Ghost? All of my elated, out-of-body spiritual experiences included, I'm not that special. And neither are the 15 special witnesses.