Thursday, March 26, 2015

My struggle with prayer

I confess that it is a struggle.  I have a place I go every morning and I have time.  I have Bibles and books and candles and music.  And I continue to struggle with prayer..My struggles are many -  I get distracted, impatient, and even bored.  I wonder what am I accomplishing, what is the point?

As I work my way through Ruth Haley Barton's Sacred Rhythms I am given permission to confess this.  She writes:
"One thing I know for sure about prayer these days is that we do not know how to pray.  It is only the young in Christ who think they know how to pray; the rest of us know we are just beginners"

She writes about how - in the beginning of our walk with God - we are full of words and images.  And then we hit a point where prayer doesn't work the way it used to "Our intellectual considerations of the mystery of God and our wordy responses no longer feel very satisfying.. For a while we may try to find a better method, but no matter how much effort we put into it or how faithful we are, nothing happens."

"The experience of having our prayers go cold, as distressing as it is signals a major transition in the life of prayer and thus in our relationship with God.  it signals an invitation to deeper levels of intimacy that will move us beyond communication which primarily involves words and concepts, into communion which is primarily beyond words.  If there are any words at all, they are reduced to the simplest and most visceral expressions. "

After I read and completely resonated with this understanding of prayer, I spent some time with today's readings: Deuteronomy 16: 1-8, Psalm 118:Psalm 1-2, 19-28, Phillippians 2: 1-11.

These verses from Philippians speaks to me today:

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: 
be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.
 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness

As I  ponder this I imagine that prayer is about sitting heart to heart, soul to soul, communing God and coming to that place where we have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.  Now this is so easy to write and say, but how does it happen?

Of  course, scripture is helpful, but most of all it must be prayer.  Being willing and able to be open to receive God.  So that our prayer is truly about transformation - the renewing of our minds.
And being with God in order to be with God.  What I believe is that this business of transformation is very slow  - but it is real.  As I look through past journals  and  decades of wordy prayers, I know that God was slowly but surely doing something with me.  And I know that God is still working with my fears, anxieties, pride etc.

And so I continue to begin again every morning and know that as I wait  in that vulnerable state that is prayer - and I am open and yet closed.  As Ruth Haley Barton writes "And the truth is, most of us have at least some ambivalence about intimacy; we cry out for intimacy with God, but we resist it at the very same time."

And so my prayer often begins with Help me - help me to be open, help me to wake up, help me to commune with you today.  Help me to pray.

Prayer to begin the Day

Lord, I so wish to prepare well for this time.
I so want to make all of me ready and attentive and available to you.

Please help me clarify and purify my intentions.

I have so many contradictory desires.

My activity seems to be so full of busyness
and running after stuff that doesn't really seem to matter or last.
I know that if I give you my heart
whatever I do will follow my new heart.  
May all that I am today,
all that I try to do today, may all my encounters, reflections, even the frustrations and failings all place my life in your hands.  
Lord, my life is in your hands.

Please, let this day give you praise.

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