The Nature of Prayer

In the month of May the land becomes enchanted. The apple tree which was bare, then leaved with fresh green, then adorned with bright blossom, now casts a shade below which a bower of shadow reaches far into the deeps of the world. These deeps are everywhere in this enchanted time between Calan Mai and Midsummer and the long days which continue beyond. I can only respond to this prayerfully : not with a pre-learnt set of words or a pre-defined response, but from the heart, spontaneously reaching out to the gods in the deep places of the world and following the paths they open through a pathless realm. This is one way to pray, directly and instinctively, with or without words as they come to the heart, to the mind or to the tongue as the worshipper responds to a god’s prompting.

But there are other ways to pray. I have written things in advance which are in themselves offerings, anticipating and preparing for a special occasion or purpose. Words produced on these occasions have a particular form in my experience which is, I suppose, determined as much by my researches into prayerful assertions from ancient times as it is to my need to acknowledge the gods in our own time. Typically, as with the recently posted words for Rhiannon, they go with actions : “I will do this …”, I do this …”, I speak to you for this purpose … and for this reason …”. Why do I have to tell a goddess what I am doing when I am doing it? I don’t know. But it does seem to reinforce the actions I take in a positive way and to set up a line of communication that is more effective than the actions alone. It also helps to define what I do and, at least potentially, share it with others.

This is another function of prayer. Even those who work alone rather than in organised groups need to observe the social conventions of communication. We are creatures of words and the words of prayers, even unspoken ones, need to be articulated whether directly or indirectly to the gods. But also to other devotees who might be inspired by them, supported by them, or simply validated in what they also do however different that might be.

So I will continue to pray spontaneously, wordlessly and instinctively as well as to shape prayers into forms of words that reflect our relationships with the gods and also with each other. But I do this whether anyone is listening or not, for the gods are audience enough.