I had a dream last night. A lady encountered someone that had shopped for her, had a full load of “stuff”, I recall a rug hanging off the side. All money had been spent. Behind her was a completely empty, white room. I remember the bare wood floor was stunning. But there was no way to furnish the lady’s home, just someone else’s stuff.
Two words circled about the door behind the lady. “Pray more.”
This could have been about material things, or about faith.
What struck me, though, was how “Pray” means so much more than a specific religious practice. Praying, done correctly, is about a conversation, about listening more than speaking. Meditation, listening to one’s self, comes close. Praying to a deity must include listening both for what is in our heart as well as what meaning we are intended to receive.
That has to work in relationships as well, in just the same way. I was told an illustrative tale, that a businessman was tired and cranky when he got home, and distressed because his children plagued his time from his arrival until their bed time. A therapist suggested a break — immediately upon arrival, devote attention and time to the children, allowing them free and unlimited access to their father. According to the tale, the children greeted their father exuberantly, shared what they wanted — and proceeded to entertain themselves the rest of the evening. Everyone was happier, except now Dad doesn’t have the children’s nagging to define his evening, and he feels a bit neglected. At least at first. When he listened to his children and his own needs for his children, they all lived richer lives.
Praying to each other, sharing what we need to express but most heartily listening to our own hearts and the truth our partner needs us to hear, is tough. We live in a world of propaganda, of merchandising, of formal rhetoric where the prevalent form of communication is “I shout, you listen.” “Do as I say.” Mass media from broadcast radio, TV, and all forms of electronic and recorded music and sound and video are expressly uncaring about what is in our heart — unless the speaker intends to replace our inner truth with their “message.”
And that cannot work amongst people. Over Twitter, texting, chat boards, yep. Short, sweet shouts, trimmed of all but the most superficial meaning. We are so used to “shouts”, for too many of us with prayer in our religious life even prayer has become a shout-only exercise, a rote phrase spoken when prompted.
We read in historical novels and religious texts of prayers taking days or hours. Not because there is so much to say, but there is that much to hear, so much meaning from our hearts and our deity. How can it be different in a family? What if our children need hours each day in our company, not just for the skills and lore we guide them toward, but because it takes that much time to hear them, and for them to hear us? What if life partners need intimate hours to hear each other, apart from living a beep away from interruptions?
Old-timers recall when preparing meals was time consuming, and families were still used to thinking of themselves as being isolated from their neighbors, their community, their nation. Family dinner was the norm, everyone sat at table when food was served, and stayed until all finished. Conversations ranged over family topics — some present were heard, some not, families have always had to struggle with communications. But today we have schools scheduling activities in family time, and a school system preparing students for corporate — isolated individual careers based on corporate values, not community and family values of connection and cooperation. We have broadcast media treating us as audience members, and internet games and streams of information and entertainment that isolate us and distract us from our daily routines, and our contacts with living people.
What we need then, to work on a relationship, is to learn to listen and to hear what is in our hearts, and to hear as clearly as we can, what our loved ones tell us. And that takes time, and lots of practice. Banishing electronics from the area for hours at a time, while practicing, would not be amiss. And pray, more.