Yesterday, I gave my 6th Toastmasters speech. This one was to satisfy the requirements for Speech #5 in the Competent Communicator’s manual (I gave speech #8 already, so that’s why this one was my 6th speech). The purpose of this 5-7 minute speech was to work on the skill “How your body speaks”, which means making sure that you use your body in ways that come across naturally, using appropriate gestures and facial expressions, making appropriate use of the space you’re giving your speech in, and making appropriate and adequate eye contact. I do these kinds of things all the time in the yoga classes I teach, but doing them in a more “professional” setting was a little scary to me, I must admit.
I decided to tackle the topic of prayer for this speech. Why? I am not sure, to be honest. Talking about praying in a setting like the one I was planning on can be considered tricky and taboo.
But, just as it happened when I was preparing for my last speech, a song popped into my head that I could not seem to get rid of. There must be something about songs from the early 1990s that resonate with me, because I kept hearing “Pray”, by MC Hammer, over and over in my head. In the chorus of that song, he says, “We got to pray just to make it today.” When he says those words, he’s talking about how we’ve got to include prayer in our lives if we’re going to make it in this tough world we live in.
So, I took it as a sign that I needed to tackle this one. I wrote my first draft and ran it by my mom, my most trusted advisor when it comes to writing…plus, she’s pretty damn knowledgeable about this topic, so I wanted her to help me ensure that I didn’t offend anyone.
The end result? It went better than I hoped, so I was ecstatic! I was able to creatively use my body language to talk about the topic of prayer, and was able to inject a bit of humor into it, which is kind of my signature in my speeches. My evaluator said I inspired her to start praying regularly…that’s exactly what I needed to hear! Some of you mentioned you wanted to be at the speech but couldn’t, so here’s the gist of what I did and said.
I started off by asking everyone to fold their hands in front of them, close their eyes, take a deep breath and relax their bodies. Then I told them to think about something they need in order to be happy.
If it’s something you already have, then think about how grateful you are for that thing. If you don’t already have it, then ask for it. Take in another deep breath, and as you let it out, seal in these words you just spoke to yourself. Now, open your eyes.
Madame Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and most awesome guests,
Believe it or not, you just said a prayer. How did it feel? Comfortable? Weird? Scary? Prayer doesn’t come easy to all of us, and it may be because we don’t truly understand what it is.
Today, we will cover what prayer is, different ways a person can pray, and how you can use prayer to help you live a happy life.
What is prayer, exactly?
A prayer is a solemn request for help, or an expression of thanks, addressed to a higher power. In other words, it’s a communication process. It may seem a little weird to think of it that way, since you’re not physically seeing or hearing anyone when you pray.
Many people think prayer is complicated, but I assure you it is not. It is simply an expression of faith that comes from the heart. When I pray, I like to think of it as my “direct line to the Divine”.
Think of praying like having a conversation with your best friend. Your best friend loves you unconditionally, right? Well, so does the Divine! When you can talk to the Divine like you would your best friend, you’re better able to talk about your needs and what you are thankful for with joy, with confidence and with conviction. These are things that will help your life be a better one.
Time for a pop quiz. Following are three examples of what people might consider to be prayer. One is NOT an authentic prayer. Can you guess which one it is?
- “Today, I am thankful for the gift of wonderful friends and family.”
- “I just had some medical tests and I’m scared. Please help me get through this, no matter what the results are.”
- “PLEASE, let that shirt I saw last week be on sale when I get to the store!”
Got it figured out yet? If you answered #3, you get the gold star! While choice #3 is a request for something, it’s not something that will truly make your life better.
Ways to Pray
Now that you understand what prayer is, you may wonder how to do it. As I mentioned above, prayer is an expression of faith, which makes it universal and part of every religion. Different religions may approach prayer in different ways, but they all have the same purpose when it comes to praying: bringing you closer to the Divine.
Take a look at these images:
These are just a few of the many examples I came across when I was searching for images of people from different religions praying. These images show Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims and Hindus all praying. Notice the variety of postures being used. But also notice the similarities…folded hands, bowed heads and closed eyes seem to be commonplace, wouldn’t you agree?
Personally, I pray in different ways, depending on the occasion. Sometimes, I simply sit cross-legged with my eyes closed and my head bowed, and I run through a list of things silently that I need to pray about. Sometimes, I sing my prayers…certain songs just seem to strike a chord with me sometimes, if the lyrics are about something I am feeling the need to pray about. And sometimes, I pray on a verse or quote that speaks to me.
As you can probably tell, I don’t believe there is a “right” way to pray. As long as it is done earnestly and from the heart, I think it counts!
Conclusion: How to Find Happiness with Prayer
I encourage you to find a form of prayer that resonates with you and incorporate it into your life on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be every day, but try to establish a regular cadence. When you do this, you may notice you are happier. Why is that?
For one thing, remember that you’re communicating one-on-one with the Divine…how can doing that regularly not be wonderful?
Secondly, as you pray more regularly, your prayers will come more and more from the heart, giving them a whole new level of meaning. You find more and more things in your life to be grateful for, you start praying for your true needs (rather than that shirt you really want to buy), and you may also find you start praying fervently for those you love and care for, which gives your prayers a more selfless quality. More meaningful prayers provide you with a sense of security.
Finally, having a heartfelt conversation with the Divine helps you realize you are not alone. Modern life is stressful, after all, and we will have hard times during our lives. But knowing that we don’t have to go through those hard times on our own gives us the courage to be strong and to say “No” to the behaviors that may bring us down.
Remember this guy?
This guy, MC Hammer, had a popular song in 1990 called “Pray”. Listen to the lyrics if you don’t know the song…they really do a great job at expressing why it’s important to pray, in my opinion. In the chorus, he says, “we got to pray just to make it today.” Even 25 years later, these words still hold true.
Find a way to make prayer a part of your regular life, and discover the inner peace and joy that come with it. Then…you’ll find your happiness.
Thank you for listening and have a sparkling day!