Prayer; What Manner of Prayer – January 24, 2013 Meditation

Prayer; What Manner of Prayer

As many of you know I work as a hospital chaplain for a very large hospital in Charlotte North Carolina. The nature of the work is to provide spiritual comfort to those in need whether they be patients, family and friends of patients, or even staff. Spiritual comfort can take many forms but frequently it does involve prayer. As chaplains we begin and end our day together in community prayer with each other.

Prayer for me as a Buddhist is an evolving and changing idea. I have gone through stages of thinking that prayer amounts to little more than a wish verbalized either with sound or with spirit. But still noting more than a wish. Not believing in any supreme being or any God or any director of events or as I sometimes jokingly say here in the temple, no giant Pez dispenser in the sky which dispenses candy or benefit if only we pray hard enough.

I recently read a book on Jewish mysticism that presented me with a new way of thinking about the act of praying. The example in the book presented a story of a house on fire alongside the manufacture of widgets.

Say you are coming home one day and you spot a house on fire. You might stop to pray that it isn’t your house that is burning. You may wish, hope, plead and so on, yet no matter what if it is already your house that is burning it would be unreasonable to expect that somehow magically the fire would cease, the house be restored as if noting had happened and the fire begin in some other house all because you made your prayer.

Now consider as the author suggested that you work for a company that manufactures some item, as the author suggested widgets. You are out selling these items and a customer asks for something that isn’t in your catalogue, something that your company doesn’t manufacture. So you go back to your company and ask if there is any way they could manufacture this special request.

After some consideration you receive notice that no that item can not be manufactured but that something similar can be provided, say in a different color. Now this something also is not in the catalogue and it would need to be specially produced. So you go back to your customer and present the fact that the exact special item can not be manufactured but something similar can be would they be open to this other option.

To me this presents a different way to consider prayer one that both recognizes limitations but yet allows for other possibilities that we may not consider.

The house is on fire, it may indeed be your house, and your prayer may not undo the damage already caused, but are you open to other options such as minimal damage, opportunities for reconstruction, and repair, opportunities for connecting with people who may help you whom you have not encountered before and whom you may be able to influence and in turn help through your own life experience?

This is an unconcluded thought, but I thought I would share with you some of my processing around the idea of prayer and invite you to also consider what you engage in when you pray.

Let me know what you think.

With Gassho,

By the way the title of the book is “The Seventh Telling: The Kabbalah of Moeshe Katan”

About Ryusho 龍昇

Nichiren Shu Buddhist priest. My home temple is Myosho-ji, Wonderful Voice Temple, in Charlotte, NC. You may visit the temple’s web page by going to I am also training at Carolinas Medical Center as a Chaplain intern. It is my hope that I eventually become a Board Certified Chaplain. Currently I am also taking healing touch classes leading to become a certified Healing Touch Practitioner. I do volunteer work with the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (you may learn more about them by following the link) caring for individuals who are HIV+ or who have AIDS/SIDA.
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2 Responses to Prayer; What Manner of Prayer – January 24, 2013 Meditation

  1. TheDemon Alf says:

    Dear Rev Ryusho,

    I am sorry, but I do not understand the desire to promote/expound other faiths. Can you please explain why this is done??

  2. I am not completely sure that I understand your question so forgive me if my response doesn’t fulfill your need for an answer. I myself do not think that I either promote other religions nor do I think I expound other religions in a promotional way. I have from time to time been asked to submit what might be called non-BUddhist sermons based upon my interpretation of passages given to me from the Bible. The reason I have agreed to do this in the past and will in the future is to provide a better understanding by others of what I believe are the truths to be found in Buddhism that exist along side other religious teachings. Also, I work as a hospital Chaplain. The work of a Chaplain is spiritual and serves people of all denominations. I might have and may in the future mention some of the work I do in that area serving many people of many different faiths. My job in that capacity is to meet the patient/family in what ever religious space they occupy.

    My personal deeply held conviction is that Buddhism is represents the truth of life and is the true religion for me. Yes I think all mankind might be better if everyone practiced Buddhism of one form or another. While I say that I also hold up alongside my belief something else that I believe is equally valid and that is there exists the possibility for many truths for other people. I hold firmly my personal belief that includes allowing others to believe as they do and that they are equally entitled to my respect and support.

    On my blog it is not my intent, nor at the temple do I ‘promote’ anything other than my understanding of how to apply the Dharma in our lives. I may however choose to do that by using many expedients which may included writings from a variety of sources which may help illustrate a concept in a way that I many not be as skilled at.

    I hope that answers your question. I thank you for asking it and for allowing me to respond. If I have failed to address your concern please feel free to try me again.

    With Gassho,

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