I realize prayer has lately become something of a vicious circle for you, if one may use this rather ill-sounding phrase for so sacred a subject. This is not the first time you’ve told me of your difficulties in praying to a God you still have trouble believing in and with a view to an immortality that often seems to you equally doubtful. Frankly, if I were praying only “to” such “a” God and only “with a view” to this goal, I would probably have trouble praying too.
Prayer of the Heart, however, is much too concrete, too simple, too immediate, and too immediately self-confirming for such doubts to “catch up” to it. Just a few weeks of practice—serious practice, mind you—should be enough to confirm this high praise. And if the term “prayer” is still a problem, because of the past associations you mention, by all means call it something different. Label it “watchfulness”, if you prefer, for fundamentally it’s simply our effort to be attentive instead of sleeping our way through life, and properly practiced it’s as easy as blinking your eyes, and yet at the same time deeply refreshing and instantly rewarding.
“Easy!” you may well reply. “And what of the demands involved in a truly ‘proper’ practice?” I know you worry—nearly everyone does!—about concentration, and you feel as though you’ve been wasting your time when your mind continually strays from the mantram. In fact, however—and I’ve pointed this out several times in Anamnēsis—in some ways the most fruitful sessions of Invocation are the ones in which we’ve been given the most opportunities, not to sit comfortably at the Center, but repeatedly to bring our minds back to that Center, which means we have every reason to rejoice in distractions!
I admit I’m teasing, but my playfulness has a serious purpose, for there’s certainly nothing “wrong” with distraction as such. For that matter there isn’t anything “wrong” with not doing anything about it—that is, with failing to use distraction as an occasion for practicing the Method of return. This isn’t a moral issue about which you need to feel guilty. It’s a question of “skillful means”, as Buddhists would say.
Certainly, the Name is the Named, and this means we must approach our spiritual work with a keen and respectful sense of the sacred. But be careful that the sacramental identity in question doesn’t keep you from invoking out of a sense of unworthiness. Of course, you’re unworthy! Now, the question is: in what precisely does that “unworthiness” consist? Whence does it come? How deep does it go? The more interested you allow yourself to be in finding an answer to these questions, the more joyful will your prayerful acts of self-observation become.