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A guide to the various different forms of prayer and how they can be used to transform your life

Prayer is a much misunderstood and under-used tool, which anyone can use to transform their life, as well as to transmute their own inner nature to become a better, wiser, more successful person. It can be used not only to strength your moral character, but also to develop the psychological tools which you need to succeed in your own life. It can be used to focus your thoughts in meditation for spiritual insight, but also for insight into your own character and life, into its stresses, strains and problems, and into possible solutions and opportunities you may not otherwise have thought of.

When most people think of prayer they think only of one specific and quite limited form. This form is properly called intercessory prayer. Essentially this means that you are asking God to intercede in some particular situation or event, to change the outcome in your favour from what it would otherwise have been. This takes the form of a one-sided conversation with God, in which you mentally make requests - for success in a venture, for the health of friends and family, or whatever it may be. The problem is that this rarely works, not least because things are the way they are for a reason, and God already knew about it before you began the prayer.

But there are also other kinds of prayer that you can make use of - Knowing what they are and how to use them can be of great benefit to you and those you love. One of these is devotional, and is basically the same as what eastern philosophers call devotional mediation. This is best done without words, without the inner voice, although this can be used as a prop initially. To do this you must select an 'object' of prayer. A physical object of devotion, such as a religious icon, can be used, but a mental 'object' such as an event, religious character or even an angel could be used. Simply focus as singularly as possible on the object you have chosen whilst in a relaxed state, drawing your mind back and refocusing when it wander, and cultivate your feelings of love and devotion.

For self-transformation, however, there are two kinds which are particularly effective. The first uses a mental process called 'assumption'. Simply put this means that you mentally assume the role of a particular person or character. This may be Jesus Christ, another biblical character, or whatever you think would be useful. Imagine yourself living as the, experiencing what they would experience, if possible living through events of their life, and thinking and reacting just as you imagine they would. As you get better at this you can even 'assume' a particular persona in prayer to think through specific situation in your life, to gain a fresh and perhaps deeper perspective.

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The second is virtue prayer. This is a bit like a sportsman psyching themselves up for a big game. Empty your mind for a moment, let go of your day to day concerns, and just try to excite your mind into feeling a particular virtue or emotion (love, compassion etc.) as strongly as possible. Begin with the 'pure' unfocussed form, experiencing it for its own sake, and later on, when you are more adept, you can learn to direct and channel this feeling into a particular relationship or aspect of your life.

I hope that this has been interesting and useful to you, and that you take the time to look more deeply into this subject

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