What is the difference between Prayer and Meditation, and how might this knowledge be helpful in choosing the right model to enhance workplace Spirituality?

Let’s first look at the definition of Prayer and Meditation.

Prayer

Prayer is when I am conscious in some way of God’s presence.  Any activity can be prayer if I am aware of God’s presence.  Christian prayer is always relational and takes place in the context of a loving relationship between God and us.  There are many ways to communicate in our relationship with God.

It is at this stage perhaps helpful to highlight two ways of prayer, namely the kataphatic and apophatic.

The kataphatic way of prayer is where we make use of our “faculties”.  This way of prayer draws on images, concepts and reason and we communicate with God using our brain, speak or sing using our mouths or communicate through our bodies through bowing, kneeling or dancing before God.  Nearly all of the usual worship prayer experiences belong to kataphatic prayer.  These prayer experiences include liturgical prayers, the Eucharist, forms of “meditation” such as Ignatian prayer, where meditation means focused work with your imagination on a topic for example the Gospels.

The word meditation is a problematic word because it means different things to different people.  In the way meditation is described here, when referring to Ignatian prayer, we are talking about the use of our imagination in prayer.

Apophatic way of prayer by contrast does not make use of our faculties and does not depend on content like images, concepts and our capacity for reason.  Apophatic prayer has no content as it means letting go of thoughts and sensations to simply rest in the presence of God.

Cynthia Bourgeault

“Prayer is not a request for God’s favours…Genuine prayer is based on recognising the Origin of all that exists, and opening ourselves to it.”
~Cynthia Bourgeault

Apophatic prayer put words to one side and attempt to communicate in silence with God. “Silence is God’s First language,” says St John of the Cross, a sixteenth-century mystic.

Kataphatic and Apophatic prayer are not opposed but rather two sides of the same coin.  We need both forms of prayer. We need words, images and concepts to learn and share our spiritual experiences. We also need prayer forms to experience God who is beyond what we can know think or imagine.

God desires a personal relationship with each person and we use prayer to build this friendship with God.

Ignatius of Loyola is known for wanting to find God in all things.  He wanted to be conscious of God’s presence while at the same time be able to do all things.  We are always in God’s presence no matter what we are doing. Ignatius believed we could become conscious of God’s presence through a regular practice of paying attention to what happens in daily life.

Prayer is a conscious relationship in how we find God in all things and deepen our friendship with God.

 

Meditation

Meditation can be defined as a set of techniques that are intended to encourage a heightened state of awareness and focused attention.

As described in the National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health, Meditation is also defined as a “consciousness-changing technique that has been shown to have a wide number of benefits on psychological well-being.”

Meditation is a simple practice that has many benefits for improved mental and physical health.  It can reduce stress, increase calmness and clarity, enhance creativity, whilst promoting happiness and fulfilment.  It is easy to learn how to meditate and the benefits can come quickly.

Most faith traditions have some form of meditation or contemplation. The goal of most methods of meditation is to expand, or deepen, the consciousness of the practitioner.

Unsplash: @erik_brolin

When the intention is to connect to something greater than ourselves the meditation becomes spiritual.  Spiritual meditation is therefore a meditation practice that helps you to connect with the Divine.  We become aware of our identity as spirit or soul and realise there is a deeper meaning to life.  A form of spiritual meditation is Centering Prayer, which is a surrender method of meditation, or contemplative prayer where you allow your heart to open toward the Divine and whenever you become aware of a thought and or emotion, to let it go.

In her book Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening*, Cynthia Bourgeault writes that Centering Prayer “….is a very simple method for reconnecting us with that natural aptitude for the inner life…(p.6) which, over time, of its own accord, leads to personal self-emptying and a more unitive outer life.”

Looking at the difference between prayer and meditation we could conclude:

  • In prayer, we open ourselves up to God and have an active role in the process of spiritual communication.
  • In meditation, we are not “active,” but rather “receptive” as we slow down and listen in order to be present with God.

How might this knowledge be helpful in choosing the right model to enhance your workplace Spirituality?

What is spirituality?

Spirituality involves the awareness of something greater than myself, that there is something more to being human than what I can feel, see, hear, touch or smell – that we are part of a greater whole that is cosmic or divine in nature. There is a sense of knowing that we have significance and purpose as life unfolds.  Some people practice their spirituality in a religious sense, following a religious tradition. For others, spirituality involves a belief in a connection to others and to the world as a whole – something beyond the self that connects all living creatures to each other, nature and to the universe.

What is workplace spirituality?

Workplace spirituality is defined as “having compassion towards others, experiencing a mindful inner consciousness in the pursuit of meaningful work and that enables transcendence” (Petchsawang and Duchon, 2009)

 

As part of their spiritual journey, people are searching for what spiritual awareness means for their work.  Patricia Aburdene writes in her book Megatrends 2010, that spirituality in business is becoming “today’s greatest megatrend.”  More and more people are making values-driven choices, becoming “values-driven consumers”.

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It is about finding meaning, value, and motivation in one’s work beyond the usual paychecks and performance. It is about people finding a sense of unity in an organization as a whole.

Employers have to take an approach that encourages spiritual practices to take place in their workplaces.

Models of Workplace Spirituality

There are various models of workplace spirituality.  It is generally accepted that workplace spirituality has a significant and positive impact on employee wellness and attitudes, such as job commitment, job satisfaction, organizational performance, and job involvement.  Most of the models have taken the workplace spirituality dimensions of meaningful work, sense of community, and inner life into account. (Milliman et al., 2003) (Pawar, 2009).  Although these three dimensions interact individually, they also work together as a single whole, positively influencing how people show up at work.

Most models identify five workplace spirituality dimensions:

  • opportunities for inner life exploration,
  • enjoyment at work,
  • sense of contribution to society,
  • alignment with organizational values,
  • and team’s sense of community (Rego and Cunha, 2008) (Rego et al., 2007).

The workplace spirituality models depict and show how the workplace spirituality dimensions interact to influence different job attitudes[1].  Understanding the different prayer and meditation practices and how it facilitates the deepening of the spiritual life of the individual may prove helpful to align the spiritual practice with the job attitude the employer wants to enhance.

[1]job attitude is a set of evaluations of one’s job that constitute one’s feelings toward, beliefs about, and attachment to one’s job.