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   Prayer, to a heart of lowly love, Opens the gate of heaven above.

The opening lines of N.V. Tilak\'s poem sum up the experience of prayer for the devotee, whatever the religion or social context. Prayer is generally the means by which one approaches the divine, whether this is understood as reaching out to the beyond, or searching deep within oneself for another dimension. Following Paul in the Christian tradition, it is God\'s Spirit within one which enables one to pray, though such prayer may be too deep for words, simply a groaning of the spirit.

Prayer is subjective. It can be distinguished from meditation, which is objective contemplation of scripture or a sacred object, or of a theological concept or image, and is usually practised silently and individually. It should also be distinguished from mysticism, when one is rapt, caught up in a divine presence or granted a vision or some other experience for which there is no human means of verification.

There has been considerable debate in modern times as to how prayer ‘works’ metaphysically, and scorn has been poured on those who appear to have a ‘hotline to heaven’. It is felt that God does not intervene personally or directly to grant requests. In most religions, mediators are sought: prayers are addressed, for example, to ancestors, lesser deities, saints and gurus. EMJ

Further reading Graham Smith, Prayer Words.



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Prague School Linguistics


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