When I first started my witchy journey, I was really resistant to prayer.
Maybe it's because I was raised Catholic and the church we attended when I was growing up had zombified parishioners mumbling their way through each week's service. In that context, "prayer" felt like a painful recitation of stilted words rather than any sort of connection to the divine.
Also, I have a master's in writing and literature and my asshole lit major brain kept telling me that prayer had to follow strict patterns, use elevated language and sound like some sort of epic poem.
But when I was reading Mallorie Vaudoise's book Honoring Your Ancestors and Cyndi Brannen's Keeping Her Keys I started to rethink my understanding of -- and relationship with -- prayer. I realized a lot of the conversations taking place with my guides throughout the day could be classified as prayer. My nightly gratitude practice. My daily intention setting. Saying hi to my ancestors as I offered them coffee each morning. Singing to plants and birds while working in the yard. Chanting during yoga practice.
I started thinking about the words I was using and realized that I prefer simple, direct and repetitive. Thank you, thank you, thank you. That's a prayer.
I came up with my own prayer to my ancestors to go with their morning coffee offering:
Good morning, my hallowed dead.
Thank you for your gifts and guidance,
insights and intercessions,
protection and presence.
I see and appreciate you.
Simple. Straightforward. Sincere.
Authentically me. The word "intercessions" is a nod to my Catholic upbringing, but paired with "insights" it creates a series of sounds I like hearing out loud. I enjoy the repetitive softness of all the s's and the in- an- in- -un (say it out loud). There are pairings of characters and sounds that have a wonderful mouth feel, which brings joy to the act of saying them out loud. For me, that's prayer.
And for me, those types of prayers are effective.
As a writer, I can appreciate other people's beautiful language. But all too often, borrowing someone else's exact words feels like plagiarism, or like I'm looking at my reflection in a damaged mirror. What's there doesn't accurately capture what I'm looking for.
Once I started thinking about prayer as a conversation with the divine or a connection with my guides and stopped focusing on flowery, ritualistic language and started emphasizing things that felt good (on multiple levels) I lost much of my resistance. I became more confident calling what I was writing or saying a prayer.
If you feel uncomfortable with the concept or act of praying, I invite you to sit with your resistance for a bit. What parts of prayer feel squidgy or icky for you? Do those feelings go away if you give prayer another name? What happens if you sing a familiar song and substitute your own words for the lyrics? Or if you write your prayer down rather than speaking it aloud?
Go ahead. Explore different ways to pray and see if there's one that works for your personal practice. Let me know how it goes.