11 Aug The Differences Between Prayer and Meditation
Prayer and meditation are two important parts of spiritual practice for many people. Whether you’re a religious person, spiritual, agnostic, or atheistic, some combination of prayer and meditation may be benficial to you. Especially in recovery, we may pick up prayer or learn how to do meditation at home and find it greatly beneficial. Let’s take a look at some of the differences between prayer and meditation, and how we can use both in our recovery.
What is Prayer?
Prayer is an important part of recovery for many people. There are multiple ways in which prayer can be helpful. One of the most foundational pieces is that prayer helps keep us humble and willing to learn. When we ask for help from a higher power, we are opening up to the truth that we don’t know everything.
If you’re a religious person or believe you are praying to someone or something specific, there’s the hope that your higher power will take care of you. This offers a sense of safety and security to many people, especially in times of need. When we’re facing difficulties, prayer can help give us something to believe in and move toward.
At its simplest, prayer is requesting help from a power greater than ourselves. Prayer may be considered a type of meditation practice perhaps. We sit and make an effort to focus on asking for help from our higher power. Prayer is not about getting a specific answer. Rather, it’s about being willing to ask and trusting in our higher power to provide for us.
Wikipedia points out that meditation is partly about training the mind in some way. Meditation is the practice of training the mind toward a specific goal. This may be a goal of mindfulness, self-compassion, concentration, patience, or a number of other qualities. Unlike prayer, meditation isn’t about asking for anything from anyone else.
Rather, meditation is about cultivating things ourselves. In meditation practice we take action and make effort to work toward these qualities we wish to cultivate. This is often done in silence or with the help of guided meditations, and doesn’t usually involve requests from other powers.
Prayer vs. Meditation in Recovery
In recovery, it’s not necessarily a question of prayer vs meditation. Instead, we can consider each individually and how they benefit us, and then consider using the two together. Prayer and meditation can work together, and don’t need to be mutually exclusive. They both have uses and can be helpful in various ways.
Prayer is great for those that believe in a higher power and wish to ask for something. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous suggests not asking for specific things for ourselves. Instead, we ask for qualities like patience, open-mindedness, and knowledge of our higher power’s will for us. We can make a habit out of prayer in our mornings or evenings, and turn toward it in moments of adversity or difficulty.
Meditation can likewise be used as a daily routine builder, and in moments of difficulty. However, meditation is a training and a practice. It’s not a tool to be used once like prayer; it’s a continual cultivation that takes time, work, and consistency. We can use meditation to actively cultivate qualities that we may ask for in prayer.
Meditation and prayer are two different ways to work toward what we want. For example, let’s say we want some more compassion for ourselves. We can use meditation to cultivate some compassion and train the mind to respond with more care. Or we can ask our higher power and open up to the compassion and care by acting with willingness to learn.
What about Atheists?
Let’s not forget that many people recover without believing in a god. Prayer may not be the best fit for those that identify as atheistic. Certain types of meditation may also not land well. However, there are many types of meditation that are purely secular and do not involve any believe in a higher power. These meditation traditions such as MBSR or vipassana are accessible and able to be practiced by people of any faith, including atheists!