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Praying Your Way to a God You Can Trust

Written by Sharon ConnorsAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Sharon Connors

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List Price: $16.99

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On Sale: August 31, 2004
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-553-90066-8
Published by : Bantam Bantam Dell
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ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

This book is about creating a better life through prayer. Sharon Connors tested the power of prayer over and over as she grew from a frightened, impoverished, but determined single mother of two children to a senior minister who has brought the gift of prayer to thousands. The people she works with ask basic questions like: How should I pray? What if I'm afraid of God or angry at God? How do I know prayer is working? Is it all right to pray for myself and for specific things I want? How can I build my faith? This step-by-step guide provides honest, practical answers--and the inspiration to act on them.

Sharon Connors teaches prayer as a learnable technique that improves with daily practice. She interweaves basic principles with moving personal stories from her own life and those she has served, and offers dozens of original prayers and affirmations that address readers' most urgent needs. Building on the conviction that the human mind is a powerful creative force designed to communicate with God, she first shows how to focus the power of mind in prayer. In each chapter that follows, she describes how to use prayer in specific circumstances, including:

Healing broken relationships
Seeking guidance in times of confusion
Transforming the fear of change and mastering life's storms
Building prosperity
Learning to forgive
Finding your purpose in life

The final chapter, "Creating Miracles," teaches the "four ways of gratitude," which have the greatest power to turn around our lives.

Reverend Connors has explored a wide range of prayer and healing approaches from many spiritual traditions, and these diverse practices are reflected in her book.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

Chapter 1


Why Should I Pray?


Prayer makes one master in the realm of creative ideas.
--Charles Fillmore


Prayer helps us contact sources of inspiration and wisdom that transcend the rational, analytical side of the mind. Prayer provides a sense of hope and meaning--the certainty that we are a part of a pattern that is purposeful and intelligent.
--Larry Dossey



Dear God, I give thanks today to remember that You have a plan for my life and it's a good one; and that you will give me everything I need to fulfill that plan. Gather me now to be with You as You are with me; soothe my mind and melt my stresses and quiet my fretfulness. Release me from any fears that grip tightly that I may be open to receive all that You so generously give.

The very first thing I remember saying as a child was a prayer. My parents taught me a bedtime prayer, repeating it a phrase at a time until I could say it on my own. I can't remember if I understood the words, but I do remember that saying the prayer made me feel safe and secure.

I also remember lying in bed as a young adolescent and praying, from the depths of my as-yet unrecognized isolation, for Jesus to show up in my room. I imagined Jesus as a light being. Were He to appear, I figured, it would be a sign from God that I wasn't as alone as I felt, that I wasn't as doomed and helpless as I believed. In those days, I was scared to live and scared to die.

My yearning for this indescribable relationship with God even brought me to pray that I would receive the stigmata, which our religion books said were a sign of God's special favor and special power. Looking back, I can see that mine was a beseeching desire for a relationship with God that would give my life meaning and purpose and a sense of belonging to something greater than myself. I wanted to experience a sense of oneness with God. I wanted to feel loved and lovable. I wanted to know that my existence mattered and that my life had meaning.

As I matured, my prayers matured in content but not in motivation. I still grappled with issues of trusting God. Along the way there were many sublime moments when I felt complete trust, when my life held great meaning, when I felt a great sense of efficacy and purpose. But I couldn't seem to sustain that trust until I began to pray to a different kind of God, a God of unconditional love, a God whose purpose was to plumb my depths with goodness and reveal the riches of the kingdom of heaven within me that I might do my part in enriching everything put into my hands and path.

In all my slipping and sliding on the ice rink of faith, I have come to believe that God seeks us way more than we seek God and that our yearning for belonging and efficacy and meaning and purpose is actually God's yearning for us. It is this mutual attraction that is met and actualized in prayer.



Why Pray?


In the last year I started doing an informal survey of friends, colleagues, and groups I work with, asking them simply: Why do you pray? The overwhelming response was that people pray because prayer works. It gives them a connection to the Divine that they experience as help, comfort, hope, peace, guidance, and love. Some said that it gets their minds right and helps them feel at one with God and all of life. One man called prayer his direct-dial 800 number to God. He was only half joking, adding that he's learned that turning to God is always the best first choice.

Many research studies have also shown that prayer has a powerful effect on the person praying. Something potently positive happens when one human heart reaches out to the divine heart, some sort of exchange of energy that enlivens and helps the one who reaches out in prayer. (You might say to yourself, "But that's not happening for me." Just try this for a while: When you pray, whether it is a one-sentence turning to God or a longer prayer for help, be totally present to how you feel when you say the prayer. See if you can't detect some perceptible, positive shift.)

The act of praying literally transforms our moods, our body chemistry, and our habits of thought. Prayer transforms because it is both creative and causative. As we pray, we imbibe divine energy. In the presence of such purified thought current, our whole being is affected in healing ways. Prayer actually takes us, like a plane, out of the smog and smoke-laden air into a cleaner, purer atmosphere. Because it accesses divine energy, it nourishes our whole being. And yet there is a beautiful mystery to this most intimate connection with the Divine. Like electricity, we come to know it by what it does.



We Feel Renewed Hope and Comfort


I prayed last night with my friend Lee, who feels helpless and hopeless in the midst of her daughter's ongoing, emphatically denied bulimia. My friend doesn't know what to do next; she is afraid to confront her daughter, Teresa, and afraid not to because Teresa's beautiful singing voice is being compromised by a raw, inflamed throat that will not heal.

We prayed, piercing through the difficult emotions and painful truth, to the light of God in Teresa and to the wisdom of God available to her mom. Our prayer engaged the invincible power of God with whom all things are possible. That prayer thought renewed my friend's hope and she felt comforted. And the thing is, in that consciousness, transformed from worry and desperation to hope and comfort, thinking is clarified and right action revealed. My friend Lee was then able to discern the next right steps to take with Teresa.

When you and I come to an all-good God in prayer, that goodness flows to us in comforting, hope-giving ways.



We Are Guided to Clarity and Right Action


Alisha had been on the verge of divorce for two years. This was her third marriage and she desperately wanted it to work but had been feeling a growing sense of discontent. She would say, "I love Tom but there is just something missing." And off she'd go on another trip--a drive to California, a visit to friends in Florida. Or she'd take up a new hobby. She went back to school, thinking maybe this would fix everything. She had even moved back to Florida where they had met and lived for the first few years of their marriage. Tom was to join her when their house was sold. She was half hoping that wouldn't happen.

One night at dinner, a good friend suggested she do some traveling on the inside and take a real look at herself. The friend asked, "Have you prayed about how you can love Tom and be grateful for all he's given you?" I could tell she really heard this. Her heart seemed to open. I received a beautiful card from her two weeks later saying that everything had changed. She said that she had prayed and had decided to commute back to New York on weekends until the house sold and Tom found a job in Florida.

In the wisdom of God is every right answer and right action. When we let go of all of our "right" answers and, in prayer, come willing to know the will of God, we are guided clearly and given the courage to take right action as guided. The priceless gift we receive is a stronger and deeper faith that grows each time we follow divine guidance. It is a faith not only in God but in ourselves and in others.



Peace Returns as Life's Storms are Calmed


Paula came in just as I was leaving the office for the day. She said that she came to pick up a book for her in-home study group that was meeting for the first time that evening. As we walked out together, she said that there was something she wanted to talk to me about. There was an unusual sense of urgency in her voice that stopped me in my tracks.

"What is going on?" I asked. As she answered her voice became shaky. "We may have to leave the church," she started. She began to explain the story, talking fast. She sounded panicky. It seems someone from her past had shown up--someone she had never wanted to see again. The texture of her emotional state was stormy. As she caught her breath for a moment, I asked if we could pray. I affirmed the presence and power of God strengthening and protecting her, the wisdom of God infallibly guiding her, and the love of God freeing her of all guilt, remorse, and unforgiveness. We were holding hands. At the end of the prayer, I could feel her hands go soft as I heard her breathe a sigh. When she spoke her voice was poised and peaceful.

God is the harmonizing energy of the universe and when you and I pray we access that harmonizing activity to minister to us in calming ways. We then can minister to the circumstance in calming ways.



We Relieve Stress by Expanding Time


Something else that prayer does so well is to relieve us, if only momentarily, of life's stresses. And of all the life stresses people complain about, the one I hear most often relates to time. No one seems to have enough of it. We feel anxious and frustrated because we don't have enough time to do all that is being asked of us by our jobs, families, and the demands of daily living, not to mention finding time for ourselves and the activities our hearts yearn to do. Yet at our fingertips we have the capacity to expand time.

I have gone into burnout more than once, feeling utterly exhausted, depleted, and running on empty. Many times I have found myself operating on automatic, driven by the demands of my job, without even thinking of praying for help.

Two years ago the pace of my life accelerated to the breaking point. I was sure I could not do all that was being asked of me. I had become chair of the board of trustees for our association of churches, an organization of over one thousand ministries. At the same time I took a new position as senior minister at the church at our world headquarters. I had to sell my home and leave my children, grandchildren, and friends to move across the country and begin again. The new ministry was significantly larger than my previous one and my responsibilities far greater. So often I thought, I can't do this. Sometimes I felt just plain empty.

My grand finale as chair of the board came when I had been in the new ministry just six months. I was scheduled to prepare and deliver the ordination ceremony for the graduating ministers in Kansas City, Missouri, then fly to Hawaii the next day to chair three days of business meetings followed by three days of board meetings, then give both a keynote and a farewell address as outgoing chair.

I began to feel a sense of panic at the thought of all I had to prepare in such a short time. There was no way I could get it all done. Until I remembered to pray.

Recalling all the ways prayer had helped me in the past, I decided to practice believing that God would help me with this too. Each time I sat down to prepare for a meeting or speech, I gave thanks to God for the miracle of expanded time. I also thanked God for the chance to do all these great things. I reminded myself that even if I didn't think I was up to accomplishing them, God surely was. I prayed for wisdom and guidance and creative ideas.

What happened next was extraordinary. All kinds of creative ideas started flowing through me. I was able to prepare everything I needed without struggling or working into the wee hours of the morning. Time just seemed to expand.

After the conference, many people thanked me for the way I guided the meetings and told me that they were blessed by my presentations. But I know it wasn't my own doing. It was a power much greater than myself working through me and for me.

This experience caused a quantum shift in my thinking, as I had actually experienced time expanding. The fear of failure that had for so long plagued me and stopped me from doing the things I longed to do all but dissolved. I came to believe that I could do more than I had ever thought possible. I could say yes to opportunities and still have balance in my life. What I discovered through prayer is that time is not the issue; it is only our beliefs about time and the source of creative energy that get in our way.

You see, prayer takes you into the realms of limitlessness in every arena of your life. Instead of saying "I can't because . . ." you will find yourself saying, "With God all things are possible."



Our Relationship with God, Ourselves, and Others Is Strengthened


I prayed my way to a God I could trust, something I had always wanted but never really had. It took time and experience in following the guidance I received in prayer; many times in praying for strength and courage to do something I was afraid to do, and then doing it; letting go of obsessing about and standing in the unknown, letting God be in charge of the way things went.

One of my spiritual teachers suggested, "Start trusting God in little things." I did. I asked for guidance in little decisions of the day. I asked for the right words to say in nonthreatening conversations first, then the more difficult ones. Along the way I began to notice that I not only came to trust God more, I actually began to trust myself more. And, because I trusted myself more, I discovered that I could be more trusting of others.

I have heard many recovering alcoholics say that, in the beginning, they didn't even want to hear the word God. Nevertheless, they followed the suggestion that they start their day in prayer, asking God to guide their day. Over time they noticed how much better their days went when they prayed. A deep trust began to develop, a trust so deep that they were given the power to clean up their past, heal broken relationships, and lead satisfying, productive lives.

In prayer, the confusion and lack of clarity that arise from the polarities of our humanness--right and wrong, kind and unkind, secure and insecure--are poured into the chalice of the Divine, where they are interpenetrated by divine energy. A kind of alchemy takes place in which the raw iron of our hearts is transformed into the gold of trust and radical optimism. We come to feel a sense of belonging and being at home in our own skin and in the universe. This relationship with the Divine is truly the marriage made in heaven and is the hope that gives us a reason to pray. When that relationship gets right, all other relationships begin to be righted.


From the Hardcover edition.
Sharon Connors

About Sharon Connors

Sharon Connors - Adventures in Prayer
The Reverend Sharon Connors is senior minister at Unity Village Chapel on the campus of world headquarters for Unity in suburban Kansas City, Missouri. She previously held ministries in San Francisco and Florida. Unity is a transdenominational movement that has had prayer ministry at its core since its founding in the late 19th century. There are currently more than 1000 Unity ministries worldwide.

In addition to serving on the Board of Trustees of the Association of Unity Churches, Reverend Connors also is a member of the Advisory Board of the Association for Global New Thought, representing minstries including Religious Science, Science of Mind, Divine Science, and Independent New Thought Churches. Her articles have been published in The Daily Word and Unity Magazine.

Reverend Connors has been steeped in prayer traditions from her childhood attending Catholic parochial schools. She worked in a wide variety of fields from maketing and sales to therapist and counselor, until she faced a crises in faith generated by divorce, addiction, and domestic violence. This sent her on a quest to find a God bigger than all life's difficulties, a quest to build a relationship with God that would provide daily support and wisdom.
Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. CHAPTERS 1 THROUGH 3

“Prayer makes one master in the realm of creative ideas.” –Charles Fillmore

“Prayer is one of the essential activities of human life. Throughout history it has nurtured our grandest visions and provided meaning and purpose to our activities.” –Larry Dossey

KEY IDEAS:
1.Prayer is our connection to the realm of the divine in a way that accesses the infinite resources of God.
2.There is not a right or wrong way to pray. Seeking God is prayer. Yet, because of the nature of God and the power of thought, there are ways to pray that are more effective than others.
3.Our minds are naturally wild, like the wind. Prayer harnesses the energy for constructive use.
4.Denial and affirmation are the keys that focus and entrain the mind.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
1.Share the highlights of your spiritual journey. What were the turning points?
2.How would you describe the God of your understanding?
3.How would you describe your relationship with God?
4.Why do you pray? (…if you do)

PRACTICES:
1.Try something different regarding your prayer practice this week. If you don’t pray regularly, try that. If you pray only at meals or bedtime, try praying at other times. Notice how you feel.
2.Just for one day dedicate yourself to paying close attention to your thoughts. When you catch yourself in negative thoughts, say “no” to them. Ask God to take the thought and transform it into something useful. Fill the space created by releasing the negative thought with a positive thought. Reflect on this experience at the end of the day.

2. CHAPTER 4: Healing the Heart: Prayers for True Relationships

“This is what I ache for: intimacy with myself, others and the world, intimacy that touches the sacred in all that is life.” –Oriah Mountain Dreamer

KEY IDEAS:
1.Life is all about relationship.
2.Prayer improves our relationship with all of life.
3.Healing relationships through prayer begins with healing our own heart. This naturally involves healing our relationship with God.
4.Divine Love working in and through us in prayer is the Healer.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
1.How would you define intimacy? How do you experience and express it?
2.With whom and with what do you have an intimate relationship? People, work, activities, hobbies, money, places?
3.Share your thoughts about and experiences with forgiveness. How do you forgive?
4.What does acceptance mean to you? What is your experience of acceptance of life on life’s terms? Of difficult people and circumstances?
5.What would embodying the love you desire mean to you? What would it look like?

PRACTICES:
1.Each night for the next week, pray for the people you find difficult for any reason. Ask God to bless them with all the good things that you would like to be blessed with. Reflect on how you experience this spiritual practice.
2.Each morning this week, ask God for the courage to reach out to one new person each day with an expression of love and appreciation. Then do it.

3. CHAPTER 5: From Confusion to Clarity: Prayers for Guidance

“It’s true; life really is generous to those who pursue their destiny.”–Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

KEY IDEAS:
1.Divine Guidance is always about the best possible solution, outcome, or path.
2.Spirit speaks in clear ways, not in confused messages. If we are confused, we have not yet heard Divine Guidance.
3.Growing your capacity to discern Divine Guidance is like developing any new skill, like playing golf or the piano. It takes knowledge, understanding of the principles, and practice, practice, practice.
4.God has a plan for your life that is fulfilling beyond your highest flights of imagination. It comes as step-by-step, day-by-day guidance.
5.If you follow your joy, you are in the flow of God’s Will.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
1.What do you believe your destiny to be?
2.Share a time when you felt divinely guided.
3.What current situations do you want Divine Guidance for?
4.How do you recognize Divine Guidance?

PRACTICES:
1.Set aside time this week to meditate. If this is new to you, try the following: Sit in a favorite chair in a room or place that feels good to you. Focus all of your attention on your breathing. Breathe deeply and fully. Do this with the prayer “Here I am, Lord. Speak, your servant is listening.” Listen to what comes and write it down.
2. Practice remembering to pray for guidance–first with the little things. Test this by doing it.

4. CHAPTER 6: From Fear to Faith: Prayers for Making and Handling Change

“Life is intent on finding what works, not what’s right. It is the ability to keep finding solutions that is important; any one solution is temporary. The capacity to keep changing, to find what works now, is what keeps an organism alive.” –Margaret Wheatley

“The universe is in the business of delivering up the unpredictable.” –George Leonard

KEY IDEAS:
1.Change is the ground of our being and of life itself.
2.We cannot, despite our best efforts, control our lives to preclude
unwanted changes.
3.Change is an opportunity, whether we view it as positive or negative, to know more of God within us and all around us. Praying from a mind of expectancy of good is key as we move through the change with grace and into the potential good.
4.Pray from a vision of the good you seek, knowing that it is seeking you.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
1.What have been the most difficult changes in your life? What got you through them?
2.What change would you like to make that you are avoiding out of fear? What makes it difficult?
3.Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism, has said that the stories we live in determine whether we are optimistic or pessimistic. Would you describe yourself as optimistic or pessimistic? What stories do you live in that are creating that perspective?

PRACTICES:
1.Make a small change each day this week. Start with something simple: wear your watch on the other wrist. Pray for strength.
2.Bathe a difficulty in prayer, giving thanks in advance for a good outcome.

5. CHAPTER 7: Partnering with Grace: Prayers for Healing

“…Let me define what it means to be an ordained healer. An ordained healer is one who is open to the energy of God through prayer and utilizes that energy to heal individuals as well as the planet.” –Caroline Myss

KEY IDEAS:
1.There is a difference between healing and curing.
2.God is the Creative Force of all life and can be accessed through the power of prayer to heal what needs to be healed.
3.Effective healing prayer focuses on the solution, not the problem.
4.The focus of prayers for healing is to create a healing consciousness.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
1.Share your ideas about “curing” and “healing”.
2.What are your healing needs now? Beliefs about yourself, God, others, money, your body, your potential, negative emotions?
3.Which of the seven principles in the chapter do you find most helpful now? Why?

PRACTICES:
1.Do something this week that contributes to your sense of health and well-being.
2.In your prayer time, create a vision of health, vitality, and well-being for yourself. What does it look like? What would you have to give up? Begin thanking God in advance for its (the vision) fulfillment and then let it go into the Creative Substance of God.

6. CHAPTER 8: Living the Abundant Life: Prayers for Prosperity

“There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world.” –Robert Louis Stevenson

KEY IDEAS:
1.Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they are yours.
2.God is abundance itself, and that abundance is accessible to us through affirming in prayer that it is so.
3.We have a moment-to-moment choice to dance with our dreams or dance with our fears. One leads to living an abundant life and the other leads to living a limited, unfulfilling life.
4.The life you dream of is a call from the heart of God to bring it into manifestation.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
1.Share your ideas and experience of living the “abundant life”. What does that mean to you?
2.What do you believe about the Scripture statement “With God all things are possible”?
3.Share you ideas about “You’ll see it when you believe it”.
4.What gives you a sense of abundance–joy, plenty, purpose, peace?

PRACTICES:
1.Choose one of the practices from the chapter for developing an abundance consciousness to practice for this week. Choose a new one each week.
2.Keep a journal of your feelings and experiences in doing the practices.
3.Once each day, visualize the good you desire. Enjoy and cherish the visions.

7. CHAPTER 9: Surrender & Willingness: Prayers That Open Heaven’s Door

“We look with uncertainty beyond the old choices for clear-cut answers to a softer, more permeable aliveness which is at every moment at the brink of death; for something new is being born in us if we but let it. We stand at a new doorway, awaiting that which comes, daring to be human creatures, vulnerable to the beauty of existence, learning to love.”–Ann Hillman

KEY IDEAS:
1.Heaven is not a place. It is an experience of some aspect of God. It is a state of heart.
2.Accepting what is rather than fighting it opens you to the activity of God in and through you in such a way that you come to experience some aspect of heaven.
3.Surrender is letting go of the internal fight to have something or someone different than it is. Willingness is giving up your will and becoming willing toward God’s Will–nothing less, nothing more, nothing else.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
1.Share an experience that you could term “hellish” and one that you could term “heavenly”.
2.What makes an experience hell or heaven for you?
3.Is there a place in your life where you feel stuck? Dissatisfied? What would you have to surrender or be willing toward in order to move out of “stuck”.
4.What would be the hardest thing for you to surrender? To be willing toward? Why?

PRACTICES:
1.Reflect on what heavenly experiences would be for you. Write them. Visualize them. Each time you think of them, say “Thank you, God, for this desire, and your answer to it.” Then let it go.
2.Create or find a prayer that helps you surrender your will to God each day.

8. CHAPTER 10: Finding Your True Purpose: Prayers for Fulfillment

“I discovered that people are not really afraid of dying; they’re afraid of not ever having lived, not ever having deeply considered their life’s higher purpose and at least tried to make a difference in this world.” –Joseph Jaworski

KEY IDEAS:
1.Our search for meaning and purpose lives in us as a call from God.
2.In becoming still in prayer and asking, God’s purpose for your life will be revealed to you in a way you can understand.
3.Finding a true sense of fulfillment will require you to relinquish your comfort zones, to set sail from the safe harbors of what you already know and venture into the unknown.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
1.Share things that give meaning to your life.
2.What is one of the most daring things you have done? How did you feel after doing it?
3.What do you believe is the purpose of your life?

PRACTICES:
1.Make a list of the things that bring you joy and do one this week like a spiritual practice.
2.Cut out pictures and words that express and depict what brings you joy; pictures and words that express a fond dream for your life. Paste them artfully on poster board. Keep them in a place where you will see them every day. Love them in a grateful yet detached way.
3.Find a place to be in service–one hour a week for a month and notice how you feel.

9. CHAPTER 11: Creating Miracles: Prayers of Gratitude and Praise

“If the only prayer you say in your entire life is “Thank You”, that would suffice.” –Meister Eckhart

KEY IDEAS:
1.Prayers of gratitude to God are magnetic to receiving more reasons to be grateful.
2.Gratitude transforms problems into blessings and opens the way for the most astonishing solutions.
3.Gratitude is a high energy that heals, attracts blessings, and makes one attractive.
4.Giving thanks in advance for the good you seek actually draws it
to you.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
1.Share your response to the idea that gratitude for your difficulties is healing and prospering.
2.Share your ideas about the relationship between optimism and gratefulness.
3.Share five things that you are most grateful for in your life.
4.Share an experience in which something that seemed awful turned out to be helpful–a new beginning, a blessing, an important change.

PRACTICES:
1.Thank God each morning for a new day and each evening for the good in the day.
2.Start giving thanks for something you deeply desire as if you have it. Feel the feelings you would have if you had it. Immerse yourself in the feelings of having it.
3.Write a thank-you letter to God for the times you have been helped and blessed.
4. Thank and appreciate one person each day–like a prayer.


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