Prayer belongs to everyone, bridging the gap between our vulnerability and our greater power.
Today I’m interviewing course author Angela Montano about her DailyOM course, 21 Days of Prayer to Change Your Life. Don’t let the title scare you — I think you will find that a lovely, informative, and interesting conversation follows.
In these days of uncertain times, her voice is refreshing and very much needed. I hope you enjoy our talk.
Madisyn Taylor: One of the first homework questions you ask people to do is to spend time thinking about how their past conditioning has led them to think about prayer. This was powerful for me because of the way I was raised. Prayer was linked heavily to religion and the Bible. When I was younger I always felt prayer was for “God people” and not for me. Once I realized that prayer is for everybody, it changed the game for me. Talk to me about this.
Angela Montano: Yes, Madisyn, this is generally what most people think. The misunderstanding goes something like this: Prayer belongs to religious people and is a product of religion. If you do not believe in God within the constructs of a particular organized religion, prayer is not for you.
This could not be further from the truth, and this limited false view of prayer is quite problematic for humanity. As human beings, we are powerful beyond our comprehension yet also very vulnerable. Prayer bridges the gap between our vulnerability and our greater power, whether you call this power the subconscious mind, spirit, mystery, god, life, presence, being, or something else. It need not involve religion, and of course it is fine if it does. Prayer belongs to everyone. It is our capacity to reach beyond our limited sense of self and possibility.
When we are feeling vulnerable in any way, we can pray to connect to the power of being that has eluded us in whatever situation, circumstance, or relationship that we may be associating with our suffering. I am committed to bringing a clear understanding of the availability of prayer to the world. Prayer is a healing energy that we can use all day long, every day, and the difference it makes is beyond words. Unfortunately, even the word “prayer” is off-putting to many people because it is associated with judgment, loss, abandonment, and disappointment. It is time to emancipate prayer from past conditioning. I see a world where a clear understanding of prayer is restored and humans live “prayed up” and “prayer supported.” When one lives in this way, it is much easier to access joy, peace, and love.
MT: I wrote a DailyOM story long ago about the difference between prayer and meditation. To paraphrase, I wrote about how prayer is an action: You ask for something. Meditation is more passive where we are still and listen. Of course there was much more to the article. An entire book could be written about this. What are your thoughts?
AM: I appreciate your thoughts about the difference between prayer and meditation, and I am often asked this question. You are right, a book could be written on the subject! What prayer and meditation have in common is that both involve a “turning within.” When we turn within to meditate, we are interested in space, in growing more conscious by seeing the activity of our thoughts and emotions. We are the witnesses. Our egoic minds operate from a dualistic perspective, so there is fear and suffering. When we meditate, we are seeing the duality of our thinking, but we are not trying to “fix” this. Instead, we are simply watching and gaining awareness. This is a powerful spiritual practice that more and more people are doing all over the world. Through meditation, we can awaken from the dream of duality and the pain of the egoic mind. With practice and with more conscious awareness, we are able to experience our fear as a sensation, become less reactive, and experience more curiosity and opportunities to make different choices. We can access calm and patience where we may not have before.
When we pray, while we are still “turning within,” it is quite different. Through prayer, we are laying down our fears, doubts, and worries, and delivering our painful perceptions to this greater power within us. In prayer, we are choosing change. We are choosing release from suffering. We are surrendering the dualistic mind to the “one” mind. We are creating and allowing. We are communing. Yes, as you say, it is very active. Through prayer we are offering the suffering to a higher power to resolve the painful conflicts within us and in the world. When we pray for a moment, even for a second, it is an act of faith. In that instance, something within us opens to the possibility of freedom from suffering. We open ourselves to the higher power of our own understanding to change us and the situation we associate with our pain or the pain of others.
When I think of meditation, I think of the word “awareness.” When I think of prayer, I think of the word “love.” Awareness allows us to make new choices while love fuels those choices and animates them in such a way that we call them miracles. Prayer is a distribution system for sending love to the places within us and to others where this love is needing to be realized.
MT: Tell me about how you started this work and how it has changed your own life.
AM: Wow! Where do I even begin! I was a television journalist. I was traveling and reporting on the human condition from so many different perspectives: first for ABC News and then for PBS. As I interviewed hundreds of people, I began to feel an inner calling. I don’t know exactly how to describe it other than to say I felt an undeniable pull from within. I heard a voice, not audible, but deep inside telling me I had my own story to live and that I was not to continue simply reporting on others’ stories.
It was a deeply confusing and anguishing time. I had this great job, and everyone in my family was so proud of me. I was also very successful at the job, so it was not like something was not working, but I was guided to give it up, and for what? I thought I was crazy, but I could not deny this inner pull. I had always been deeply spiritual, always reading something spiritual, and at the time I was reading The Bhagavad Gita. I felt a battle going on within me. Do I listen and obey this inner calling, or do I continue with what was winning me approval?
I would be covering the news and while doing so experience a deeper reality in the midst of horrific car accidents, fires, and other tragedies where people were suffering. Through a series of events and choices, this led me to the work I do today as a spiritual practitioner. In short, I surrendered my life to the love within that I sensed was intelligent and knew more than I did from my limited thinking. I had to trust it.
When my mother passed away, a new level of my calling was revealed. I was told from within that I must offer my body of work to the world. I was told that all I have learned about prayer through praying for thousands of people from all walks of life for what now has been 24 years did not belong to me alone. It belongs to the world, and I must share it. So that is what I am doing.
As for me personally, my own prayer practice has transformed my life. Through prayer, my consciousness has deepened in relationship to all that is important–love, compassion, health, gratitude, peace, prosperity, etc. Also, my beautiful husband and marriage, our amazing daughter, our lovely home, and my relationships with my beloved family and dear, dear friends have all come to me from my prayers.
MT: I view your course very much like a journey. The starting point is meeting people where they are and then offering a breakthrough, followed by teaching different types of prayer, and culminating in somebody creating a prayer practice for themselves. Would this be an accurate description of the journey?
AM: Yes, that is very much the intention of the course. I want to get the whole world praying in a fresh authentic way that is universal, personal, and powerful. While there are so many wonderful things to practice in life, prayer is probably the most extraordinary vital thing a person can practice. I want to inspire the realization that prayer is a practice as well as an effective first response to any disturbance!
MT: How would your course benefit my readers if they chose to experience it?
AM: Your readers will benefit from this course in untold ways. I have received close to a thousand notes of thanks from people who have taken the course, and so many of them tell me that the course has changed their life, that they are doing it over and over as part of their morning ritual. Many tell me they are sad when the last lesson is upon them. They want more prayer lessons and practices. I have intuited for some time that the world is starving for prayer. It is like being thirsty and not understanding you just need to drink some water. Through cultivating a prayer practice, your readers will access much lightness of being, comfort, gratitude, and transformation of their lives. Not only that, their prayers for others will be beneficial to those they love. I love that prayer is something we do for others, as well as ourselves.
MT: I was in New York recently and during a book signing a reader came up to me and said how much she loved DailyOM and then she mentioned your course and went on about how much she loved it and how beautiful it was. Is this the type of reaction you are seeing from readers that have taken the course?
AM: Yes, as I said before, I have been overwhelmed by the feedback. It makes me cry sometimes reading the beautiful personal notes from DailyOM students. I am so grateful to DailyOM for being a platform that is connecting prayer to people who are ready to practice. It has been extraordinary. I deeply believe what Gandhi said, “Prayer from the heart can achieve what nothing else in the world can.”
I really enjoyed learning about Angela’s perspective on prayer and how she came to a place in her life where she just had to share it with the world. I very much felt the same in my own life, and it shows in my DailyOM work. Angela writes from the heart, and her words contain such grace and beauty.
Find out more about this course and other prayer offerings available on ReThink Prayer here.