“Define your terms” was the famous quote from Voltaire, one which Sherlock Holmes took to heart. And I couldn’t agree more where the seemingly synonymous titles of Prayer, Meditation and Magic are concerned.
No, they are not synonymous. They overlap in many ways but they are not the same thing, yet time and again people say one but include one or the other, or both, as a matter of course. That is far too loose a usage in a discipline that is notoriously vague and misunderstood and confusion is likely to be incurred . Let me see if I can sharpen that up a bit.
Trying not to be too simplistic, I understand prayer as practicing being in the presence of God to a particular end not only when taking part in a ritual or service but possibly when walking, dreaming, working or, – yes – , meditating or performing magic. It is a state of mind or attitude of being aware of God in some way, close and meaningful, of sharing in a rapport or communion with the Divine. In such a relationship there is some kind of communication that can be beseeching, or joyful, or deeply profound and content, or even angry. It includes the other and is not just a mind trip of self indulgence.
Magic, which might have the same desired outcome as a prayer, is solely from the self or manipulating the cosmos towards a particular desired end. It might involve others but initiates within the self and need not draw upon any other person or being in the process. It might be inspired by the Divine or not.
Meditation is a state of mind or mindfulness that is profoundly restful and usually beyond thought. In such a state a person may be more aware of their spirituality, their relationship with the whole of creation or their relation to the Divine. It is not in any way a beseeching or intersession but a resting in the whole.
Doh! Who chose those illustrations? Don’t they look rather similar? Yes – that’s the whole point!
For a more detailed argument see the Chapter of that name in my book “The Death of the Church and Spirituality Reborn”.