July/August 2012 (Vol. XXV, No. 7)
Summer Greetings, dear Friends! It is the season of vacation trips, bright summer colors, gardens in full growth preparing for a bountiful harvest, blue skies, sunshine, swimming and picnicking. In short, a busy, outward-oriented time of year. Where is there time for prayer in all this activity? We tend to think of prayer as a quiet, inward-looking pursuit, and it feels more natural to focus on it during deep winter months when nature herself draws inward into silence. But there are many ways to pray. As we eagerly look for new flowers in bloom, as we are stilled for a moment before a blazing sunset over the ocean, as we are humbled by the miracles of growth all around us . . . are these not prayers of gratitude? And when we watch a summer storm approaching over distant mountains, clouds gathering, darkening, moving faster and faster, wind picking up and then the rain coming down in sheets; and it moves closer and lightening zigzags across the sky everywhere, and we are filled with awe before the sheer power unleashed; and then it moves away, and deep silence remains in its aftermath, and for a moment we, too, are silent before the power and majesty of nature . . . is this not worshipful prayer? Let us be attentive to these moments of spontaneous prayer as well as our times of inward, more intentional prayer in silence.
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The world is holy. We are holy. All life is holy. Daily prayers are delivered on the lips of breaking waves, the whisperings of grasses, the shimmering of leaves.
Prayer leads you to see new paths and to hear new melodies in the air. Prayer is the breath of your life which gives you freedom to . . . find the many signs which point out the way to a new land. Praying is not simply some necessary compartment in the daily schedule of a Christian or a source of support in time of need, nor is it restricted to Sunday morning or as a frame to surround mealtimes. Praying is living.
Prayer and meditation have an important part to play in opening up new ways and new horizons. If your prayer is the expression of a deep and grace-inspired desire for newness of life—and not the mere blind attachment to what has always been familiar and "safe"—God will act in us and to prepare what we cannot yet imagine or understand. In this way our prayer and faith today will be oriented toward the future which we ourselves may never see fully realized on earth.
Prayer has a life of its own. If we could define it today, that definition would have moved and changed by tomorrow. Prayer is a living relationship that can never be pinned down and analyzed; prayer is a breath of the soul that has passed before we can seize hold of it; prayer is a reaching out of all that is deepest within us towards all that lies infinitely beyond and around us.
To pray is not to use special language; it is the sound of a cry or a laugh rising from ordinary days. Formal or official words can often be lifeless. To pray we need to return like children to an elemental language of soul, to something close to song, to chant, to playground singing.
Prayer is not sending in an order and expecting it to be fulfilled. Prayer is attuning yourself to the life of the world, to love, the force that moves the sun and the moon and the stars.
I believe that God prays in us and through us, whether we are praying or not (and whether we believe in God or not). So, any prayer on my part is a conscious response to what God is already doing in my life.
Prayer is not a solo art form:
for, we never pray alone;
all prayers offered to the Beloved
by whatever Name, whatever form,
Meet in the Holy Tabernacle on high,
lifting the hearts, needs, and hopes
of myriad souls. . . .
United in prayer and purpose, individuals
from every nation
sowing sacred seeds of peace,
truth and love,
Create the power to usher in the New Dawn.
Let us move inexorably onward toward
the divinization of planet Earth.
Prayer is like lying awake at night, afraid, with your head under the cover, hearing only the beating of your own heart. It is like a bird that has blundered down the flue and is caught indoors and flutters at the window panes. . . . But sometimes a prayer comes that you have not thought to pray, yet suddenly there it is and you pray it. . . . Sometimes the bird finds that what looks like an opening is an opening, and it flies away.
My son opened my eyes to the unceasing nature of prayer in joyful moments which sometimes lie dormant in our hearts. I learn from him each day that God is in the little things — the things that can be found in the ordinary, here and now of life. Look in the minutiae of daily life in your everyday places, where Presence can be felt and where you can be submerged in unceasing prayer.
Contemplative prayer reflects a long and noble lineage of Christians who have attempted to "put on the mind of Christ" ... through a radical transformation of consciousness that produces the Kingdom as its fruit. Applying Jesus' teaching that "a house divided against itself cannot stand," they have striven to heal their own divided and warring consciousnesses and bring their lives into an inner alignment through which it becomes possible to actually follow the teachings of Christ (which are in fact pitched to a level of consciousness higher than the egoic) and to live them into reality with integrity and grace. Ever since that first great contemplative "experiment" in the deserts of Egypt and Syria, the goal has been radical transformation of the human person in service of the Kingdom. It doesn't require an "introverted temperament"--only honesty, commitment, and a good sense of humor. From these three raw ingredients, great saints can be fashioned.
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