I pray daily. I am a Christian, but I count Jews, Buddhists, and Hindus among my dearest friends and associates. I also have personal and important relationships with people who do not believe in a Higher Power but instead place their beliefs and faith in ethics and humanity. I have taken great effort to study and attempt to understand each of these belief systems and have concluded that although we each address God or our Higher Power in a slightly different manner, the concept of prayer is the same. In each case, we respectfully request help, blessings, and inspiration from above.
One of my most highly valued moments in my life occurred in the Himalayas where I had an audience with the famous High Lama of Pangboche, the Gashilay. I had spent much of the year before studying and learning as much as I could about Buddhism. Sherpa climbers request blessings from the High Lama before attempting summit bids on Mt. Everest and the other 8,000-meter peaks in Nepal, and my climbing experience provided me with an introduction to the High Lama.
On the day we met, we had a lengthy conversation regarding our beliefs. Our time together was engaging and respectful, and before I left the monastery I was honored to receive a blessing from this Lama. After receiving my blessing, I asked if I could share a prayer with him. He agreed, and I prayed and asked God to bless him in return. When I stood, there were tears in both our eyes. Although very different prayers were offered that day, the intent and I believe the end result—enlightenment—was the same.
Most world religions have a tradition of prayer or meditation. The acronym ASK in traditional Christianity provides an effective model, no matter your spiritual beliefs. Ask and expect to receive an answer. Seek and expect to find a way. Knock and expect doors to open for you.
What should you ask for? Well, honestly, that’s up to you. In the 1500s, Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order, taught a procedure for decision-making. First, you must take time to meditate on the choice you have made or will make. Then, you must ask yourself: do you feel positive, energetic feelings, or stressful anxiety? Ignatius called these feelings “consolation and desolation.” I call them confirmation or confusion. Feelings of confirmation urge you to move forward, knowing that you are in harmony with the Divine Will. Confused feelings are a warning to back off. Similar concepts are found in Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Sikhism, and many other religious traditions.
One of my favorite examples on this topic is a story told about Gandhi. On one exceptionally busy morning, with many crucial tasks ahead, Gandhi made the following statement: “Today is such an important day. We have so much to do today; we must take an extra hour to pray.” (Attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. A similar quote attributed to Martin Luther may be another source: “…In fact, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”)
We’ll finish out Rich’s thoughts on ASKing tomorrow.
 St. Ignatius of Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises, trans. Father Elder Mullan, S. J. (New York: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1914), 88.