March 2005 (Vol. XVIII, No. 3)
"Is there enough Silence for the Word to be heard?"
Blessings of Spring renewal to you, dear friends! A prayer may be calling to you, silently budding in the sacred temple of your innermost being, a fragile prayer for you to nurture into birth, response, and action. Blessed are you who listen to the soul-songs waiting to be sung in your heart.
We do not step out of the world when we pray; we merely see the world in a different setting. The self is not the hub, but the spoke of the revolving wheel. In prayer we shift the center of living from self-consciousness to self-surrender. God is the center, the Source, toward which all forces tend, and we are the flowing, the ebb and flow of God's tides. Prayer takes the mind out of the narrowness of self-interest, and enables us to see the world in the mirror of the holy.
The creative act is a courageous, ancient gesture, a dynamic prayerful exploration of the dark mystery that is human existence. When I finally identified this face of creativity as sacred practice, I built a small altar in my studio and my work took on a depth of meaning it never had. Prayer and art suddenly meshed and became refined. It wasn't done in pursuit of holiness as I'd been taught in the child's corner of my life. Prayer became synonomous with art as an authentic expression of my entire complex Self.
I am giving Thee worship with my whole life,
I am giving Thee assent with my whole power,
I am giving Thee praise with my whole tongue,
I am giving Thee honor with my whole utterance.
I am giving Thee lovfe with my whole devotion,
I am giving Thee kneeling with my whole desire,
I am giving Thee affefction with my whole sense,
I am giving Thee my existence with my whole mind.
I am giving Thee my soul, O God of all ages.
Prayer creates a quiet place within us where we can go at any time regardless of what is taking place around us. In this quiet place, we are constantly aware of God's presence. By practicing self-restraint in speech and maintaining this quiet place within, we will be aware of the presence of God. Then when we do speak, our words will break down the barriers between this world and the next. Words are the tools of the material world, while silence is the mystery of the spiritual realm. A love of silence is the surest and safest way to find our true selves, fulfillment and joy.
Be constant in your practice, and one day the One who gave you the desire for the prayer of the heart will give you that prayer itself. When your heart's intention is fixed on God, it will keep lit the incense of your prayer, and wind of distraction will not put it out. do not worry about stray thoughts; they may come and go, but they will not take your attention away from God.
Prayer invites us to become aware of the living interaction between the transparent God, who will remain always beyond all we can think or imagine, and the immanent God, who abides deep in our heart. As we become aware of this sacred encounter, we become, ourselves, a place where God's dream is becoming incarnate in our own personal life. We enter into a personal and intimate relationship with the Author of our being.
We often consider prayer a deliberate act, something that we choose to do, or not. In the 18th century, William Law knew better:
"As the heart willeth and worketh, such, and no other, is its prayer.... For this is the necessity of our nature: pray we must, as sure as our heart is alive; therefore, when the state of our heart is not a spirit of prayer to God, we pray without ceasing to some, or other, part of the creation."
Perhaps as we learn what "part of creation" we have been praying to without knowing it, we can enlarge and re-focus our prayer, until we find that we are not so much praying as being prayed through, and all our own best hopes and the hopes of the world are flowing through us.
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