This set of essays will investigate the question of prayer from a structural point of view. It will take several essays to expound these questions.
If we speak of three-centered prayer, it's inaccurate; because actually, all five of the lower centers engage in prayer. To be sure, the two higher centers also engage in prayer, but we need not concern ourselves with these at present, since their own version of prayer is not germane to our investigation from the point of view of this level.
The lower centers engage in prayer naturally, if they are allowed; and our ordinary, conventional understanding of prayer can interfere with this.
I could speak of the prayer of all five centers, but perhaps it's most useful to understand the prayer of the three principal centers we can have an effect on, that is, prayer of the mind, prayer of the body, and prayer of the feelings.
These prayers are arranged in a definite hierarchy, the lowest of which is prayer of the mind, and the highest of which is prayer of the feelings. Most of us are strictly familiar with prayer of the mind, because this kind of prayer, which stems from the intellect, is the most verbally accessible, and words are the language we most readily understand.
The languages of the body and the feelings are not properly understood as languages, even though they ought to be, so we don't correctly understand how to perceive them as prayer, even though they can organize themselves into prayer naturally if a right connection to higher energies is formed.
All yoga is actually a form of prayer; and the self-organization of the centers into prayer is what we might call intuitive yoga. Intuitive yoga is what yoga originated as; when yoga originally emerged as a practice, humanity was much closer to its spiritual roots, and most men and women had their inner eye opened quite naturally. As mankind's nature deteriorated, contact with the inner eye was lost; and yoga became an organized, as opposed to intuitive, practice. This does not mean that the intuitive, or natural, form of yoga was lost; the proclivity for this kind of yoga still resides innately with the unconscious (where Gurdjieff said man's undamaged conscience was located.) But this intuitive form of yoga, that is, prayer, is buried.
This intuitive kind of prayer is, ultimately, a study of attention; but intuitive yoga is allowing the attention to have an attention, not attempting to form an attention artificially. This particular point is persistently misunderstood by our ordinary parts, who are functionally incapable of understanding things in any way other than "under their own control." Attention exists naturally and does not need forming; all that the initiate needs to do is become open to the force of attention, and it will appear without effort on the initiate's part. Admittedly, this takes a good deal of preparation; most often, decades of it. A good deal of the aim of Jeanne de Salzmann's work as expounded in The Reality of Being is the reorganization of yoga into its original and intuitive form; a work, by the way, which was one of the original aim's of Gurdjieff's system, which, as I have noted before, is nothing more than yoga with all of the yoga jargon judiciously—and intentionally—excised from it.
At any event, let's get back to the subject of prayer.
Prayer must become active at all times. One simply cannot pray enough; another point which (despite Conge's concise observations on the matter) often seems to be lost on students of the Fourth Way, as well as everyone else—excepting perhaps the Muslims, who seem to have retained a soundly right valuation of this activity.
But one needs to understand prayer from the point of view of all three centers, and be actively engaged in within each one. It should be noted that intuitive yoga naturally produces this result if the development of the three centers is harmonious and balanced. It was one of the original aims of the Gurdjieff work, in the form Gurdjieff encountered it (a very ancient form) before he adopted it to western ends and means.
The prayer of the mind is received through forms, and created on this level by the intellect and associations. It's helpful; it's necessary in order to conceptualize, which takes a more active form of thinking than just passive or rote interpretation. Gurdjieff described this kind of prayer when he was speaking to Ouspensky about prayer in In Search of the Miraculous. I say above, created on this level, but keep in mind that this kind of prayer has the potential to be informed by a much higher intelligence under the right conditions.
The second kind of prayer, prayer of the body, is received when the body develops an active attention of its own, and its own mind develops the capacity to work independently of the other two centers in a right way. (This "vivification of vibration" needs to take place before the body can work in active conjunction with the mind.) Without this correct relationship, prayer in the body cannot arise; but once it arises, it is forever present, as Brother Lawrence explained in his classic The Practice of the Presence of God.
The perpetual action of these two kinds of prayer will inevitably attract and engender the third form of intuitive prayer, prayer of the feelings. This is truly esoteric prayer which, although it can be described, is best left to the initiate to experience.
More on this to follow.
May your soul be filled with light.