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Rated: ASR · Essay · Religious · #2294873
Write An Essay About... Contest entry for April 2023.
While some maintain that “prayer” and “meditation” are distinctly different things, I’d argue that, in practice, they are one and the same. Or, at least, that prayer is a form of meditation and the two have more commonalities than differences. Aside from where one’s mindfulness is directed (i.e., toward a higher power or inwardly), both involve ignoring outside surroundings, calming oneself and letting go of negative thoughts, and reflecting in order to achieve greater awareness and understanding. I’d argue that, when the overarching goal and the basic, fundamental steps are the same, everything else is just minutiae and specifics.

Both prayer and meditation start with ignoring one’s outside surroundings to get into a mental space where you can focus on the practice of intentional mindfulness. While the specifics might change from individual to individual, almost all intentional prayer and intentional meditation involves finding ways of closing oneself off from the everyday distractions of the outside world. Both prayer and meditation practices often encourage the practitioner to find a quiet, distraction-free place so that they can be more intentional with their efforts, so they can get into the right headspace to tackle the next step in the process.

Once someone has a quiet, distraction-free place where they can be more intentional with their prayers or meditation, the next step is often calming oneself and letting go of negative experiences. Structured prayers might have steps like preparation, approach, lament, ask, examine, and extol (based on the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6:9-13), while meditation might have steps like breathing, scanning one’s body, focusing inwardly, etc., but those are largely issues of execution, whereas the intent is the same; to get to a place where you are calm and have risen above negative thoughts and earthly considerations of the everyday world in order to transcend to a greater level of awareness, understanding, and/or communing with a higher power.

The purpose of achieving that greater level of awareness, understanding, and/or communing with a higher power is to reflect and understand your place on Earth (or in the universe) better. Prayer involves gaining that awareness and understanding from a higher power’s grand design, while meditation tends to be more inwardly-focused and doesn’t have a religious component, but again that’s a difference in the details. The overall goal is still the same, which is to better understand our place in the vast universe.

Debating the differences between prayer and meditation is a bit like not seeing the forest for the trees. Sure, the specifics of the practice might be different, and the way the practice is oriented might be different, but the actual intent of the practice is essentially the same, which is why I don’t see them as distinctly different things, but part of the same essential goal of humanity, which is to have intentional practices by which we’re able to analyze things about our world and our universe, in order to achieve greater awareness and understanding of the human experience in the vastness of all of creation. People can argue semantics, or definitions, or specific practices, but everyone’s trying to get to the same place.


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530 words

Written For: "Write An Essay About...

Prompt: Meditation
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