The 'atmosphere' in which we enter our selves within during prayer, is as foreign to our sensibilities as fluid is to the lungs. In a different condition, in a corporeal body better suited, we may have consciously stepped worlds, without the transition or brevity as is required today. In place of breath, when we submerge, it is our thought that we must hold. The thought bears with it those elements of contemplation - intention, inquiry, fantasy (fantastic projection and interpretation - i.e. requiring the imagination to propel the consciousness into further realms than the immediate physical observances), and those sensory recollections also - sight being that in particular.
The question was: What do we see when we pray? The answer may be given as this: picture if you will, a man who is held within a cave, a watery cave, for which the only way out is to submerge himself and travel the passage through to that place where the water flows freely out and into the upper regions where he may then surface into clearer air and pure sunlight.
If we understand the cave to be our worldly consciousness, the hardened rock being the skull itself which enwraps and protects the moving and contained consciousness, we understand that a man is firstly required to submerge within himself when in prayer, traveling down into the heart, making the passage without any new breath of activity of thought or sense received - but with that which he has taken at that time of deeply diving. He must make his way to the heart that he may pass through it and up into the spiritual worlds for which he hearkens, into the spirit's place to be revivified, insteeped therein by an atmosphere much clearer and brighter than that he knows.
As we travel out from comparative darkness into the light we are momentarily so overcome unless given time to adapt or adjust. Our spiritual sight is over-filled, yet not with vision with all of its contrast and pictures defined, but rather with light or the brilliance alone of that light. Our original thoughts begin to expire, just as breath itself will tire. We have to return to our consciousness. With practice the excursions out may become longer. Indeed, we may pray eventually with inexhaustible agility.
However, until such a time when the constitution of the organized consciousness can adapt to the differing atmospheres we shall be locked into retaining but a parcel of thought at a time and be committed to pick it up on the way through re-entering the 'cave' of thinking once again.
If a man could frequent his heart and his God knowingly with an active consultation, he would accentuate his consciousness, removing it from the mundane, traveling deeply within and then up and out into the expanses of the Holy Sanities - and we know this by the restorative effect our prayer answers us with, in that peace upon returning, with that knowledge that the knowledge is there, that the consciousness searches to make translation for.
Before diving into these waters we leave our shoes behind (our earthliness) so as not to inhibit our paddle, and so too our costume that we be naked before God without the pretense and embellishment of personality and personality's effrontery; and as one last final breath, our parcel of thought is held tight and will take us into that place of repose, whereupon and wherefrom one day we shall not return, should we choose rather to stay indefinitely in death.
[A response to Bishop Oliver Heywood’s question to the congregation at Holy Trinity, Hampton, Victoria, June 1995.]