I came to write my invocation to Hekate ready for my renewal of devotions and I began to ponder on the process and mindset behind such an act. As part of that I pondered upon the difference between invocation and prayer and, knowing that the answer is not a lot, wondered why as a community we are almost ideologically opposed to the use of the word.
This is in part because of the heavy Christian connotations associated with the word ‘prayer’ however some Christians will refer to a set of words calling upon and honouring their God as an invocation.
Now let’s look at the stance adopted. A common pose for pray is eyes closed, hands together and kneeling however some denominations encourage a more ‘receptive’ pose of eyes open, arms open/ palms up with feet to the floor.
Thirdly, the meaning; a prayer is a structured call to a divine power which gives recognition to their power, the affect upon a mortal life they have and a desire expressed (whether it be a particular outcome, act, intervention etc) which is rounded off with a word or phrase.
Boiling it down we need to look at the dictionary definitions of these two words.
1. a. A reverent petition made to God, a god, or another object of worship.
b. The act of making a reverent petition to God, a god, or another object of worship.
2. An act of communion with God, a god, or another object of worship, such as in devotion, confession, praise, or thanksgiving: One evening a week, the family would join together in prayer.
3. A specially worded form used to address God, a god, or another object of worship.
4. prayers A religious observance in which praying predominates: morning prayers.
1. The act or an instance of invoking, especially an appeal to a higher power for assistance.
2. A prayer or other formula used in invoking, as at the opening of a religious service.
3. a. The act of conjuring up a spirit by incantation.
b. An incantation used in conjuring.
Despite the difference in name the operation remains the same. The prayer and invocation serves as a context for your sacred acts as well as forming a petition to deity
Some pagans list prayer as being ‘passive’ magic, in opposition to activate magic in the form of spell working, however this shows a limited approach to prayer.
Centering prayer was developed linking Buddhist meditation with Christian practice without the need to follow the core Buddhist traditions. In this practice a single concept is focused upon during meditation. The technique is similar to that of meditation, in that you relax your breathing and focus on the body, but you hold the concept you wish to focus on in your heart for the duration of the prayer, perhaps repeating a word associated with the chosen concept.
Contemplative prayer is similar to centering prayer, but doesn’t involve a specific concept. Rather it is a wordless communion with a deity. It is usually preceded by more verbal forms of prayer, which lead into contemplation or meditation.
Body prayer involves your whole body and can involve activities such as walking and dancing. One particularly spiritual and prayerful act is ‘walking the labyrinth’ where the act of walking takes you on a spiritual journey.
What follows is a list of common prayer types which could be of particular interest to pagans;
– contemplative prayer
– intercessory prayer (praying for help for someone else)
– petitionary prayer (praying for help for yourself)
– adoration, devotion
– prayer of approach
– invocation (asking a deity to be present)
– words of reassurance (for the benefit of the participants of the ritual)
– healing prayer
– expressing aspiration (e.g. “may we be blessed”)
It might sound silly but prayer and invocation have a structure to them regardless of their length and focus, and it is one common across religion. You open by acknowledging the deity being addressed by name and make statment of their attributes and character. Christians would follow this with a statement of confession such as referring to the unworthiness of the petitioner however this isn’t really consistent with pagan practices.
After this follows a statment of context, referring to the reason for the prayer or ritual/gathering. This should include references to any special day you might be celebrating. This is also the point where the deity should be invited to pay heed or be present. State the importance of their presence and involvement, the form will fluctuates with the purpose but should reference the reason for the prayer.
As you can never praise the divine too much the next stage is to offer further words of praise and honour, referring to aspects of the deity relevant to the prayer; strength, wisdom, benevolence etc before closing the prayer with a word or phrase. Christians use the word ‘amen’ and many pagans use ‘so mote it be’. The phrase can be more personal however keep in kind that it draws the prayer to an end and honours the deity.
Personally I think we can be too precious in maintaining a distance from Abrahamic faiths and loose sight of the similarities or things that can be drawn on as tools. I wonder how many new to paganism Google ‘how to write a prayer’ and disreguard something because they perceive it as too ‘Xian’ (sic). So I write this for the newbie as a pagan who brought some of what she learnt in Sunday School into her personal practice.