Prayer Bytes

Can Prayer be Non-Verbal?

Is prayer a form of talking? Must it involve words? A woman wrote to me, "I feel a deep desire to pray, but I cannot bring myself to use words. They seem unnecessary and silly." Oscar Wilde had similar doubts about his words. He once wrote, "I do not talk to God so as not to bore him."

In its simplest form, prayer is an attitude of the heart — a matter of being, not doing. Prayer is the desire to contact the Absolute, however it may be conceived. When we experience the need to enact this connection, we are praying, whether or not we use words. 

That doesn't mean words are wrong. People are often inspired to express verbally their unity with God, Goddess, the Divine, the Universe, the Absolute in some way — to lift their voices in words or song. If we need to use words, we should use them. But the essence of prayer is not something you say on Sunday morning, before meals, or at bedtime. The essence of prayer bypasses all the “Our Fathers” and “Hail Marys” and goes beyond all the thees and thous….

…we can expand the definition of prayer:

Prayer is communication with the Absolute.


This definition is deliberately broad. It allows people to find communication any way they see fit. It also invites them to image the Absolute in their own way — including the idea that the Absolute is both transcendent and immanent, "out there" as well as "in here."

In prayer, people may fill in the blanks anyway they choose.



Prayer is Good Medicine 
by Larry Dossey, M.D. 
New York: Harper Collins, 1997
pages 83-85

Larry Dossey, M.D., is the former chief of staff at Humana Medical City Dallas and former co-chair of the panel on mind/body interventions for the National Institutes of Health. He is the author of many books, including Healing Words, Recovering the Soul, and Meaning and Medicine.


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