Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., suggests developing your own prayer ritual in the morning when you awake and again at night, just before bedtime. It may be a very simple act, such as a morning prayer or simple meditation. Keep it brief, but deeply meaningful for you, she advises. "The moment I cover myself with a prayer shawl, for me that's being wrapped in the wings of God," she says.
Borysenko, who for the last 35 years has studied the world's spiritual and religious traditions, has been engaged in an ongoing process of returning to her Jewish roots. She was recently enchanted with a book and audiotape that a friend gave her called The Busy Soul, by Rabbi Terry Buchman.
What Buchman has done is "extract the most meaningful part of the Jewish morning prayers and create a tape 15 minutes long, so by the end of the 'spiritual workout,' I feel completely centered in a tradition I'm slowly trying to return to. This has been very grounding for me," reports Borysenko.
In designing your prayer practices, involve as many of your senses as you can, advises Borysenko, who regularly leads women's spiritual retreats. "When you can see, smell and touch, so that it's not only visual, but tactile, you imbue it with your intention. Then it becomes sacred."
Joan Borysenko's Three-Part Prayer Ritual
To complete the day, Borysenko uses a three-part practice from her Jewish prayer book, which has much in common with all traditions and can be adapted to your own.
First comes a "retrospection of the day, where you look and see what is out of 'right relationship' in your life and think about it. Can you correct it via an attitude, or do you need to phone someone or write a letter? Once that is done, I recite an affirmation that we are all one, that everything in the universe is united, connected."
In the third part, she surrounds herself with four archangels and calls down the feminine face of God over her like a quilt, and gives her soul to God for safekeeping for the night. In the morning, she again thanks God for returning her soul to her body.
While she believes that prayer and mediation are quite different, an area of overlap can be found in contemplative prayer — where your only prayer is for "union with the divine. You're not asking for a darn thing," says Borysenko. "Contemplative prayer is simply 'God-Union.' It's not about listening, but being, and that is true of all forms of meditation.
"Don't worry about what it's called, or whether you're 'doing it right.' Just pray from your heart. As the practice becomes part of your daily life and 'first recourse,' you will find that becomes as natural as breathing."