For a few years now, I’ve been occasionally using the prayer to Lesson 222 as an introduction to meditation. That is definitely its intended purpose, and it serves that purpose quite effectively. The prayer is a single, long sentence, which I will break into three parts:
Father, we have no words except Your Name upon our lips and in our minds,
This first phrase basically says, “I’m saying only one word,” which seems to be a rather blatant self-contradiction. We are claiming to use only one word, while using a lot of words to do so. It’s almost like saying, “I’m not talking now.” Clearly, then, the prayer refers not to itself, in which we end up saying 33 words, but to a time that will follow it, in which we do in fact say only one word: God’s Name. That’s why I say it’s an introduction to meditation. This phrase announces that we will be repeating this Name again and again, with all of our attention on it and only on it. That’s what I take to be the meaning of “upon our lips [repetition] and in our minds [attention].”
This is clearly a reference to what I call Name of God meditation, which was taught in Lesson 183. There, we were instructed in a style of meditation in which the only thing we do is repeat God’s Name over and over, not as just a sound, but as a call to Him, an invitation for Him to come to us, a prayer that contains “the only wish we have” (W-pI.183.6:6). And when worldly thoughts intrude, we repeat the Name again, to call our minds back from the empty idols of the world to the only thing we really want: God. We can choose whatever word we want to be God’s Name for us, though it’s good to bear in mind that the Course’s favorite address to God is the one that begins our prayer: “Father.”
as we come quietly into Your Presence now,
This phrase announces why we are repeating God’s Name: to come quietly into His Presence. “Quietly,” of course refers to mental quiet. Our mind is quiet and still, free of its usual rush of noises, focused only on that one Name. This phrase is much like the oft-repeated Course statement, “I come to You.” We are announcing, in other words, that we are bridging the distance between us and God. We are closing the gap. We are coming out of the lonely emptiness of the world and into the warmth and wonder of God’s Presence.
and ask to rest with You in peace a while.
The previous phrase described the approach: we are coming to Him. Now this final phrase describes the destination: to rest with Him in peace. These two phrases, then, are identical in meaning to the final line of today’s prayer: “We come to You in Your Own Name today, to be at peace within Your everlasting Love” (W-pII.264.1:7). This is what our prayer is leading us into: a time of resting with God in peace. Our goal is to lay down all our cares, all our anxieties, all our lack, and simply rest in the fullness of God’s Presence. I just read this beautiful Buddhist line the other day: “We lie blissfully at rest in the bosom of eternal motherliness.” That very much captures the sense in the Course of resting in God.
“A while” of course refers to the duration of our meditation. Here is another clue that this prayer is an introduction to a specific time in which we rest in God.
Notice that we “ask to rest with You.” So are we now doing two things—repeating God’s Name and asking to rest with Him? That doesn’t make sense. The clear implication is that repeating God’s Name is our request to rest with Him. In other words, as we say “Father” (or whatever word we choose), we are really saying, “May I rest with You?” The Name itself is a request. This is exactly what we find in Lesson 183, where the Name is a “call,” an “invitation,” a “request,” and a “prayer.” For that little while, God’s Name becomes the prayer of our heart.
You might want to try this out. Say God’s Name in your mind as a short way of saying, “I want to rest with You.” Try it a few times until it clicks into place. I suspect you’ll find that it works, that it’s very easy to use God’s Name as a way of making that request, and that it makes the repeating of the Name far more meaningful.
The reason why I find this prayer such an effective introduction to Name of God meditation is that it describes nearly the whole process in one sentence. It says, “I am repeating Your Name to the exclusion of all other words and thoughts, as I come into Your Presence in complete silence, and say Your Name as a request to rest in You.”
Because it summarizes the whole process, repeating it is a great way to orient my mind toward what I’m about to do. It settles me into the right frame of mind. It prepares me to really give myself to the meditation and put my energy in the right direction. I encourage you to try this for yourself and see if it works for you, too.