Prayer is both a startlingly complex and terribly simple thing. At its simplest, prayer is an act or invocation of a deity, spiritual being, or object of worship with the intent communicating with that which is invoked. Prayer can be silent or verbal. It can be done in stillness or with vigorous activity.
The mode of prayer that is most common in the region of the USA that I am from is patterned after Protestant Christian acts of worship. This mode combines a ritual gesture of supplication and a verbal invocation. Generally, the body language is submissive, indicating that the petitioner is of a lower station then that which is invoked. The only variant that can be found in this mode is the degree of submissive body language. Some kneel and bow their heads in an ancient gesture that is universally recognized as one of deference, regardless of culture. The hands are usually raised in a supplicating gesture, generally clasped together before the petitioner at approximately chest height. Others stand but retain the bowed head.
Bodily position indicates how one perceives their relationship with that which they invoke. This denotes the degree of respect accorded to what one is invoking and the way that one anticipates the deity or spiritual being addressing them. Some choose not to adopt submissive bodily postures when they pray, assuming a stance that is receptive, however, is still quite common. One may choose to stand upright and face the icon of their faith, for example, with their stance one of relaxed attentiveness. In either case, the petitioner assumes a bodily position that they associate with receptive attention.
Prayer can also be an act that is performed. Dedicating one’s activities to a deity is a form of prayer. Engaging in challenging work in the honor of the object of worship is as valid of a form of prayer as engaging in tasks that others would consider trivial. The key to prayerful action is intent and maintaining mental focus upon that intention while doing said activity. Generally, persons who have experience in active meditation will find that prayerful activity is easier to do. This is also true for persons who wish to transition from prayerful activity into active meditation.
Verbal prayer is most often performed via spoken word or mentally ‘talking’ to the object of worship. It is equally useful to engage in keeping a prayer journal wherein one might record written prayers. Prayer journals are useful tools for a person in building up a deeper sense of familiarity with their interior landscape and how they approach prayer. Over time, a person who keeps a prayer journal will discover themes in their prayers as to their wants, needs, and offerings given via this medium.
Some who pray verbally will use music to communicate their petition. This is a combining of verbal prayer with active prayer. Others who pray verbally will repeat a formula of prayers (ie the Rosary). The use of unique and spontaneous prayers does have a respected place in a spiritual life. These prayers are argued by some to be more valuable then formulaic prayers. It is the author’s opinion that the use of formulaic prayers is equally of merit to spontaneous prayers, as the objective of these prayers are different.
Formulaic prayers are designed to achieve a specific goal. In instances where one is reciting a prayer that has a long history of use, a person may tap into the reservoir of spiritual energy behind that prayer and draw some of that power to them. It is the authors opinion, as well, that the farther one removes a formulaic prayer from its cultural and ideological source, the less effective it becomes. For a Filianist, the prayers of the Catholic church are going to be more effective then those of a Presbyterian church. This is because the Catholic iconography has greater resonance with the Filianic faith’s iconography. This makes the concepts of the Catholic prayer easier for a Filianist to apply.