Helene Ciaravino received her bachelor of arts in English and master of arts in literature from Georgetown University in Washington, DC. She has written and studied poetry for over a decade. Ms. Ciaravino is also the author of How to Pray.
Have you ever noticed how, after spending several days eating chocolate chip cookies, salty chips, and greasy pizza, you wake up one morning and actually crave healthier food? All of a sudden you really want an apple, maybe some oatmeal, and a cup of hot tea—without the sugar. Even if you generally choose a cheeseburger over a green salad, you know the dissatisfying feeling of having a body chock-full of junk. Eventually, you want something better. Your body calls out for a change.
Or perhaps you’ve noticed how, when you are sick with an infection, your whole body begs for sleep. It knows that sleep will aid your recovery. If you heed your body’s pleas for rest, you are likely to recover more fully and more quickly. You seem to inherently know how to heal yourself.
In the same way, the deepest and most fundamental you cries out for spiritual activity—for prayer—when it has gone long enough without. You know—or, at some level, you instinctively feel—that you need prayer to feel healthy, happy, and whole again. Otherwise, you would not have picked up this book.
Maybe you sense that there is something lacking in your life—that there is a void that is not being filled by the work, the play, the people, and the possessions that make up your current world—and you suspect that prayer is the missing element. Or perhaps you were raised with certain prayer techniques, but no longer find them suitable for your state of spirituality, and would like to investigate other effective forms of prayer. Maybe you need healing, you are in search of guidance, or you want to give praise in a new way. Or perhaps you simply want to discover the beauty of different prayer cultures—to learn how various religions and philosophies have made wonderful contributions to this age-old practice.
Whatever your reason for reading this book, here’s the bottom line: Prayer helps. You won’t always see how, nor will you always understand how, but prayer works to your benefit no matter which way you look at it. Countless people attest to this truth, from scientists, to members of religious orders, to lay people. Prayer is life enhancing and self-improving. Anything that positive is worth a try. And How to Pray will aid you in that effort, offering you both inspiration and solid guidance.
How to Pray does not attempt to argue the validity of one religious or philosophical approach over the other. Every religion and lifestyle discussed is of tremendous significance and value. Nor does this book set out to convince you of the existence of God. You already have a desire to turn to a higher union, a more vast power—God. That process of “turning to” is referred to as prayer in the following pages. The suggestions, techniques, and stories are presented simply to lend a helping hand as you begin to further develop your personal prayer life.
We will start by discussing general issues of prayer in Part One. This section includes definitions of prayer, information on the power of prayer, and an examination of the reasons why some of us don’t pray.
Part Two studies several of the world’s approaches to prayer. Within these chapters, you will learn about some of the history and prayer techniques used by four of the world’s great traditions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism.
Finally, in Part Three, we’ll cover some basic principles involved in making the practice of prayer more effective. In addition, we’ll look at several challenges encountered in prayer life—seemingly unanswered prayers, spiritual dry spells, and even the wonderful possibility of turning each day into a prayer.
How to Pray will support your natural power to communicate with God. Furthermore, it will help you develop that power more fully, just as you develop other natural talents through careful study and exercise. How to Pray confirms that you have so much to gain, from daily contentment to sublime fulfillment, through the practice of prayer.