Tuesday, April 28, 2015

And the rest of the story

          After I wrote yesterday's post about "Answered Prayer" I almost deleted it.  Because it really is only part of the story of faith.  I do believe in a God who is responsive and that part of our journey in faith is awareness and gratitude.  There is always a mystery to the "cause and effect" or what is called "Answered Prayer."  Do my prayers help someone get a job or find healing?  I live in complete ignorance and total faith.

        My definition of faith is "a relationship with God."  When Jesus saw people he often asked: "What do you want me to do for you?"  And he not only talked about prayer but he also spent time in prayer.  And I believe that one aspect of our prayer life is answering that question and offering it up to God.  And so I pray constantly  - not only for myself but also for others I know and don't know.  Believing that in some very mysterious way it makes a difference.  That is it.

   At the same time I am continuing to work my way through the book Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening by Cynthia Bougeault.  The chapter I read this morning was about the difference between cataphatic and apophatic prayer.  Cataphatic prayer makes use of our faculties and engages our reason, memory, imagination, feelings and will.  The prayers for myself and others are clearly cataphatic prayers.

   Apophatic prayers bypass our capacities for reason, imagination, visualization, emotion and memory.  Centering prayer is Apophatic as we sit in silence and in some sense yield ourselves to God. We let thoughts, reflections go and just are present with God.  The best word seemed to be surrender.  I write this and am trying it and it is easier to write about than to do.  What I know is that I want to be transformed by God and it is surely more than me telling God what I want. This form of praying not only opens me to God's healing and guiding spirit but allows me to experience ONENESS with God and all of creation.

The Psalm for today is Psalm 95 and in it the Psalm writes: "Do not harden your hearts."  What I experience in my life is how easy it is to have our hearts harden.   Right now as I write this I read that the Baltimore Orioles game is being postponed because of rioting in Baltimore.  At the same time people are trying to pick up the pieces in Nepal after a devastating earthquake.  It is so easy to focus on our own lives and not engage in prayer and work for this country and this world where so many are hurting.  Somehow I believe that faith practices - like prayer - help us to stay open and connected - not only to God - but also to each other.

The rest of the story is that while God is at work in my little life, God continues to bring peace and light and healing and strength in the most difficult situations.  And sometimes wants to use us to do that.   Here is a wonderful prayer by Walter Brueggemann

We are your people,
mostly privileged
Your people who make futures for ourselves,
seize opportunities,
get the job done
and move on.
In our self-confidence, we expect little
beyond our productivity;
we wait little for
that which lies beyond us,
and then settle with ourselves
at the center.
And you, you in the midst of our privilege,
our competence
our entitlement.
You utter large deep oaths
beyond our imagined futures.
You say – fear not, I am with you.
You say – nothing shall separate us.
You say – something of new heaven and new earth.
You say – you are mine; I have called you by name.
You say – my faithfulness will show concretely and will abide.
And we find our privilege eroded by your purpose,
our competence shaken by your future,
our entitlement unsettled by your other children.
Give us grace to hear your promises.
Give us freedom to trust your promises.
Give us patience to wait and
humility to yield our dreamed future
to your large purpose.
We pray in the name of Jesus who
is your deep yes over our lives.

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