Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Prayerful Life

Is powerful and exciting.

The readings of today include a wonderful verse from Isaiah 49: 5-6
"It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel: I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth."

What I hear in this and believe is that most of us think way too small about what God wants to do with us and with our lives.

Another reading of today is the story of Peter and Cornelius found in Acts 10: 1-34.  I LOVE this story because it shows how these two prayerful men are being guided by God to one another and in that encounter they are being changed.  Both of them.  And for me, one of the most telling details is that they are prayful.  Cornelius is described as a "devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God."   And Peter "went up to the roof to pray."

The point is our prayer habits are primary in allowing God to speak to us and use us as a "light to the nations."

I continue to read through Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening by Cynthia Bourgeault.  Chapter nine is title: "Divine Therapy" and it is about the healing power of our receptive stance in meditative prayer.  It is through opening ourselves to God by spending time with God that we are "consenting to the presence and action of God."  The image that I have for myself these days is that I am like Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus experiencing his love and listening for whatever I need to hear today.
Thomas Keating writes:

    "The level of deep rest accessed during the prayer period loosens up the hardpan around the emotional weeds stored in the unconscious, of which the body seems to be the warehouse.  The psyche begins to evacuate spontaneously the new space for self-knowledge, freedom of choice, and the discovery of the divine presence within.  As a consequence, a growing trust in God, a bonding with the Divine Therapist enables us to endure the process."

And Cynthia writes:  "what really happens when one enters the cloud of unknowing, resting in God beyond thoughts, words, and feelings, is a profound healing of the emotional wounds of a lifetime."

And so I read this story about Peter and Cornelius which ends in Peter changing his mind and his eating habits and opening himself to a God who shows no partiality.  I believe this kind of change is really huge and does not happen in a moment, but as a result of a the relationship with God and the times of prayer that came before.  He may be moving a step at a time- to use Richard Rohr's vernacular - from first half of life faith into second half of life faith. 

As I reflect on my life and these readings today I think that sometimes
our minds, spirits, souls can be like a pan with burnt on food from dinner.  And prayer is our soaking the pan in soapy water overnight.  So that when we come back to it again, the dirt and grime just wash away.

Interestingly, today is "National Day of Prayer" as we come before God as Americans and pray for God's guidance upon us.  When I was in Bowling Green I frequently participated in these ecumenical services that consisted of many different pastors praying to God.

But the prayer that changes me has not been those experiences.  Instead it has been dedicating time in silence and solitude to just sit and be open and present.  There is no question that over the years I would wonder what difference it makes.  At this point in my journey, I do so trusting that God is doing more than I ever know and that I can trust that.

I also believe that God has more for all of us to do as we allow his healing spirit to work within us   so that our light can really shine out of us.

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