Friday, 27 May 2011


a Moment for Wisdom…


“Just as a wave on the ocean is what the ocean is doing, you are what God is doing.”

Wayne Dyer

“The prayer of the monk is not perfect until he no longer recognizes himself or the fact that he is praying.”

St. Anthony

“Prayer is an exercise in knowing who we are and what we deserve.”

Sharif Abdullah


Personal Wisdom:

If you are “praying”, what are you praying TO?

If you are “praying”, what are you praying FOR?

If your prayer is communication with the Divine, what is the Divine?

Societal Wisdom:

a Moment with Sharif…


I was recently interviewed by Celeste Yacoboni for her upcoming book, “How Do You Pray?” Before I agreed to be featured in her book, I had to confess to her that I’m not sure that I DO pray!

If “prayer” means something that goes, “Please, God, give me a pony,” I don’t do that. I don’t activate my own desires and needs that way, and I don’t see a “God” that is sitting down at some quantum computer saying, “Oh, Sharif wants a pony now, let’s give him one,” or, “He’s been a bad boy, so he’s not going to get a pony.” If prayer means petitioning a Transcendent Being in order to get stuff, then I don’t pray.

I am in a near constant conversation with the Divine, though. Parts of that conversation are formal. In the morning, I sit down and I light five candles. I light a stick of incense. I sit in a
particular seat in a particular way. I set a twenty-minute timer, I close my eyes, and I then engage in a conversation that does not have words, that’s outside of this space, this time, this being.

At one point in time in my life I thought you had to wear certain kinds of clothes or robes, and go to a particular building and do particular gestures in a particular way, — that was “praying”. That might be praying, but there’s a really good chance that it is not. It may be an
interesting cultural practice, but you’re not necessarily communing with the One, the All, the Transcendent. On the other hand, you could be sitting in traffic, not thinking about anything in particular and all of a sudden be stunned by beauty, or be stunned by the amazing fact that we’re spinning on this big rock, hurtling through space, and we don’t fly off.

Some years ago, I was living in North Carolina and was watching a college basketball game.  The North Carolina Tar Heels were down by one point – if the student athlete made his two free throws, they would win the college championship. This young man stands on the free-throw line, with thousands of fans in the stands and millions more watching on television. He takes the ball and puts it under his left arm and with his right hand he makes the sign of the Cross. He takes his shots… and North Carolina wins the tournament!

Now, I don’t think that God gives a rip whether or not the Tar Heels win the finals. But that young man was communicating with something, and that something was larger than himself. And if we have this general notion that anything that is larger than oneself is God, then he was talking to God.

Now the guys on the opposing team were taking their free throws and making the sign of the Cross and sprinkling themselves with holy water and chanting and burning incense… but it wasn’t enough – their team didn’t win. So did that mean that God didn’t like them? That their prayers weren’t strong enough? That God in some way favors the Tar Heels? (People from North Carolina have a ready response to that question!)

(Was the Tar Heels player in communication with “God”? My answer is a very limited “yes”… and what I mean by that will be the subject of another Comment, some other

In these three quotes, there is a pattern – if you are praying, and praying with authenticity, you are praying to/with/for yourself. Your Self. Your larger Self, not your “skin-encapsulated ego” (to use Peter Russell’s term).

Some years ago, I had a powerful lesson in ego-less prayer: I was in Sri Lanka, in the capital city of Colombo (one of my least-favorite cities on Earth), on a personal errand.  I was having “one of those days” — everything was going wrong.  I missed my bus connection, it was hot, humid and stinking, rotted garbage and dead animals on the sidewalks, beggars everywhere… I couldn’t find what I was looking for at one store, so I had to walk 5-10 blocks to another — unbelievable traffic, stinking heat, pollution (you get the picture).

As I was walking, totally pissed off, I passed an old Dutch Reformed Church, set back from the street, surrounded by a low wall.  Outside the wall, facing the church, was a man, dressed only in a dirty sarong.  He didn’t have hands or feet — he had an advanced case of leprosy.  He was facing the church, his arms and voice raised in prayer.  I could not understand his words, but his intent and his energy were clear:

He was praying for someone less fortunate than himself.

I stopped for several minutes to be with him and his energy.  To snap myself out of the “Sharif Pity Party”.  To recognize that he was showing me the way to pray. That no matter how “bad” my life was, is, or will be, I still have the capacity to exercise compassion, to be with the suffering of the world (and the joy of the world).  If I am truly with that joy and suffering, it will inform my actions (and propel me halfway around the world so that I can get even more experience).

So… prayer is being with the Divine – in all of Its Manifestations. Including me. Including




All photos by Sharif Abdullah, unless otherwise noted.


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4 Responses to Friday, 27 May 2011

  1. Maja says:

    Thank you Sharif.

    And so it is.

  2. Susie says:

    A great deal of my prayer practice revolves around gratitude and appreciation. And when I am facing a challenge of some sort, nothing is more comforting than to remind myself, in prayer, that “everything is working for my highest good.” I truly believe that, and if it is true, there is nothing to fear. The Unity prayer for protection is also one of my favorite prayers, for myself and for others. When I pray, I seek to get in touch with the Truth and move past the apparent reality of this world. Real prayer is more than repeating words; it’s a connection with the divine Truth. Whatever works for people that allows them to tap into that connection is the “right” way to pray, in my opinion.

  3. Holly Wells says:

    My husband, Tom, sometimes asks people: “Do you know that the Universe is conspiring on your behalf today?” A great conversation starter.

  4. Chuck Willis says:

    Lately, I have been consciously mindful of “standing in the void” between my inner Being and my outer experience in physicality. What I notice is that creative energy moves in both directions past me. The (malleable) “facts of the matter” that comprise my current circumstances have an energetic affect upon my inner peace and tranquility in relation to the intensity of my attention to (and attunement with, or embodiment of) these “facts”. Alternatively, and in addition, there is a clear and observable affect of the sacred Truth within me upon my outer circumstances. Likewise, the strength of Its effect varies depending upon the attention (attunement and embodiment) I give to It.

    So, I can choose to be (critically) “reactive” to that which we (i.e., you and me, but mostly me) have already manifested (together). Or, I can choose to be a “window of opportunity” allowing the Light of Divine Will to shine into our (yours and mine, but mostly mine) experience in physicality. The latter is a prayer (my prayer) for our continual unfolding and flowering into the full realization of our ultimate Truth.

    Bless You!


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