Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday Five: Prayer of Silence (or not)

Jan posted a very interesting  Friday Five:

At the beginning of this past week, I attended a conference on contemplative prayer entitled "Turning to the Mystics" at the 2013 Summer Institute at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX. The speakers were James Finley, author and former novice of Thomas Merton; Mirabai Starr, author, translator, and speaker; and Father Ronald Rolheiser, author and president of OST. We were encouraged to regularly sit in quiet to come to realize our union with the Divine, who continually loves us into being.
So for this Friday Five, let us share about our prayer practices, whether silent or not:

1. How do you pray?   Praying is loving. It is that being in the presence of the Holy One. We have spent way too much time and effort on prayer techniques.  When you read the mystics--everyone from Teresa of Avila to Hildegard to the Desert Mothers they all come down to centering on loving--loving God, loving Creation, loving the people who are in that Creation.

2. How has your idea of prayer changed over time?  Of course when I first started to pray in my 20's I spent a lot of time with words.  I read my prayers, the Office, reading Scripture, talking to God.  But after my 30 day retreat when I was a novice, I realized that prayer is just being present to God.

3. Do you ever sit in silent prayer? How does it go?  All the time.  I love my quiet time.  While a novice we were guaranteed an hours of mental prayer a day.  I loved that time.  And I still look forward to having time to just be quiet with the Holy One. But making myself available to God is not always easy.  It often has to do with how well I am able to love, how well I am willing to allow God to be present to me.  Having God present ALWAYS means that I am being called to change and sometimes I don't want to face that.  When I find myself running away from prayer, I have to sit myself down and ask myself what  is it that I don't want to admit is a failing, or sinful, or whatever.  But over the years I have gotten so accustomed to finding God at the center of my silence that it sometimes is difficult to stay present to God when I want comfort and God wants change.

4. Do you have any difficulties and/or pleasures in prayer?  The pleasure of prayer is just being there--I am seldom aware of time or any effort at those moments. I can't think of anything I would rather do. Difficulties see # 3.

5. What is the best advice that helped you with prayer?  PRACTICE!  PERSEVERANCE!  Recently I have been reading Richard Rohr's The Naked Now, a splendid description of the mystical life.   

Bonus: Share something about prayer or an example of a prayer you like.  I still love the Divine Office, the
prayers of the Church.  I like them especially when they can be sung.  I especially love the musical settings of the ELCA.  There is nothing that tells me that I have been at prayer than when I have used my whole body to pray--singing does that and singing in community does that.

One of the problems I have with Church is that it has NOT taught this transformative form of prayer to the rank and file of the membership.  I do not understand religion that is not transformative.  But with so much of the past 20 years having been devoted to 'church growth' or doctrinal dispute, it is has been hard to find those even in my own denomination, especially in the hierarchy who understand mental prayer or the mystical life.  And now that I am back in the Bible Belt, I have even been told by some conservatives that this mental prayer is 'demonic'.   The problem is that they have put so much emphasis on belief that they do not understand the unitive experience.  

1 comment:

Anita Coleman said...

What you wrote resonates - loving, present to God. Even the demonic! I couldn't believe when a couple of women in my Bible study felt this way. Thank you for sharing.