My brothers started a discussion about meditation and prayer. The question or thought was that one believed prayer was the same as meditation, while the other believed meditation was quite different and separate from prayer. Following is my interpretation of the two.
In my experience, prayer generally is a supplication to a Divine Being. We send prayers for help, we send prayers for strength, we send prayers for courage, or encouragement. Prayer is usually an attempt to invite in the power of the Divine to help us in some way. I have always thought of prayer as speaking to the divine; it is usually a one-sided conversation or request.
I have viewed meditation in the broadest terms as listening to the Divine. Meditation is about calming and slowing the mind from the endless thoughts that run about. The thoughts in the mind have been referred to as the “monkey mind” because of how our thoughts tumble and swing through the mind nonstop, like monkeys swinging noisily from branch to branch through the trees.
Prayer can be calming, slowing the thoughts of the mind for the benefit of focusing on the words of prayer, or forming prayer requests into specific words. Prayer may be of an individual nature, or formed formally for ritual or practice. It can be used as preparation for meditation, or become the meditation itself with the repeated repetition of the words.
My conclusion, then, is prayer can be used as meditation, but meditation is not considered prayer. There are many different types of meditation that can be used to accomplish many different outcomes – from simply slowing the mind to calmness, to programming new thoughts, to meeting with a divine being or spiritual guides for guidance. Meditation can be accomplished through repetition as in chanting, or through prayer, or it can be experienced through focused breath.
Further thoughts, anyone?