Mudrashram Institute of Spiritual Studies
The Differences between Prayer and Meditation
By George A. Boyd © 2003
Prayer consists of a sequence of steps that provide a sense of communion and communication between the believer and the Divine, as the believer understands the nature of God. These stages of prayer are shown below.
Like prayer, meditation focuses attention. It may focus attention in remembrance of the spirit, of an ensouling entity, a nucleus of identity, the goal of spiritual evolution, an inner guide or like prayer, upon one of the forms or aspects of the Divine.
Meditation may use evocation, asking a question or making a request for information to the spirit, an ensouling entity, a nucleus of identity, an inner form of the unconscious mind (archetype) or to a spiritual guide. It may also engage in listening to and receiving guidance from an entity that is evoked. It may also engage in dialogue with the entity that is evoked.
There is also a grounding stage in meditation. After each meditation, the attention returns to normal waking awareness again.
Prayer requires faith in the aspect or form of the Divine to which you pray, whereas meditation does not require faith. Meditation witnesses, studies or interacts with whatever is visualized at the focal point of attention.
Meditation does ask for information through inner dialogue methods, process meditation or inquiry, but does not ask that the object of meditation grant a wish or desire, or intervene on your behalf, or the behalf of another person, institution or social collective (city, country, nation, etc.).
Meditation does not utilize thanksgiving and worship, though it may use chanting to call upon and focus the attention upon one of the forms of the Divine.
Meditation may utilize auric reception, or receiving the Light from a spiritual Master, Initiate or the Divine, which parallels the step of reception of grace and blessings. But auric reception does not follow upon thanksgiving and worship, and is typically a reception of initiatory impulses. Reception of these initiatory impulses has been called Initiation, Shaktipat, or Light Immersion.
Initiation expands the potentials of being at all levels, purifying and illumining the inner vehicles of the ensouling entity. This Light Immersion during meditation may also
The reception of grace and blessings in the prayer sequences usually does not convey initiatory impulses and usually focuses on the first four of these elements of a Light Immersion, which may be said to impact the personality or outer life of the individual. The higher four elements may be said to be Transpersonal (referring to aspects of the Superconscious Mind or inner life of the individual), and are less frequently addressed in the reception of the grace and blessings sequence of prayer.
The impulse to prayer may arise at different levels of the mind.
Conscious Mind These take the form of repetition of a written prayer or repeating a prayer after someone leading a prayer. This type of prayer, called role prayer, is typically used in religious groups as part of their worship ceremonies. These prayers may have limited personal relevance.
Subconscious Mind You pray in this fashion when you cry out from your pain, suffering or grief, and ask the Divine to help you. This is spontaneous, deeply felt and intensely meaningful to you when you pray in this way. It comes from the "gut", the deep emotional core within you.
Metaconscious Mind This type of prayer is an articulation of personal questions raised in dialogue with the Divine. These may take the form of asking whether certain courses of action are morally correct or whether your understanding of a scripture or point of doctrine is accurate. They may solicit guidance as to what is the best course of action to take in order to solve a problem. They may seek clarification of the meaning of a scripture or life event. They may request forgiveness for perceived moral transgressions. They may inquire about the nature of the world, of God, and the relationship between God and man. This type of prayer is used to develop a philosophical or theological understanding of God. It arises from the center of the conscience, the intellect and volition of the Metaconscious Mind.
Superconscious Mind These types of prayers arise from the spirit as intercessory prayers or the ensouling entity as benedictions of so-called "universal prayers." The spirit typically prays on behalf of other people. The universal prayer or benediction invokes blessings for all living beings (like the universal prayer of the Buddhists: "May all beings everywhere find happiness and release from their suffering").
The efficacy of prayer refers to the results of praying (e.g., when you pray, do you get what you ask for?). Efficacy of prayer may be fruitful, in that the supplicant receives the request. It may also be fruitless, in that the subject does not receive the request. Several factors impact the efficacy of prayer.
The so-called prayer of faith, "believing that having prayed for a boon, you have already received it," is really an aspect of affirmation. An affirmation is a visualized thought seed that is anchored in the Superconscious Mind. You may see the results of your affirmation (visualization), repeat a phrase to anchor it in the Superconscious Mind (decree, fiat or affirmation), and feel that it shall be made manifest (faith, expectation).
The Superconscious Mind is creative and manifests the seeds anchored in its Plenum. Part of the efficacy of prayer may be due to the fact that as you invoke the Divine to grant your wish, you also anchor an affirmation in the Superconscious Mind. The Divine may only have to nurture your seed that you have already planted to allow it to bear fruit. Indeed, the fulfillment of many of your prayers may actually be the fructifying of affirmation seeds that you planted long ago with great fervor and desire.
Affirmation may be a useful adjunct to prayer, as may meditation. We encourage you to learn more about affirmation and other invocational methods in order to enhance your spiritual life.
Those wishing to learn about invocational methods and other forms of meditation may find the Mudrashram® Master Course in Meditation useful. This foundation course will give you a comprehensive introduction to meditation theory and methods, as well as giving you understanding about the process of initiation.