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May 142017
 

This post is part of a series titled Choosing Authenticity: A Prayer of My Own.  It is Part 6/9 of Reflection IV: of that series titled Listening Obedience | Attention Is Everything.


 Choosing Authenticity
A Prayer of Our Own

Reflection IV
Listening Obedience
Attention Is Everything
(Part 6)


Prayer
Attention To Our Sacred Inner Being

As we saw earlier, the dictionary defines prayer as:

a spiritual communion with God or an object of worship, as in supplication, thanksgiving, adoration, or confession.*

This definition captures the essence of the way we typically approach prayer. We tend to focus on “supplication, thanksgiving, adoration, or confession.” These are all valid and even necessary ways we communicate with God. They are all an important part of what prayer should be, and yet they all focus on our approach to God. If we are not careful this focus can cause us to miss prayer’s deepest meaning: “a spiritual communion with God”. The dictionary defines communion as:

the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.**

It is this “sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings” that is the very essence of prayer for me. It is not enough for me to communicate with that Mysterious Other I call God. “Supplication, thanksgiving, adoration, or confession” is extremely important, but it can take us only so far. What I seek is what the monastics call Divine Union. I want God to communicate with me too. I want God to actually lead my life. I want God to actively provide ongoing “guidance, strength, and courage” for my routine day-to-day interactions with the people, events, and things that make up my life. I want real communion with God—real day-to day two way communication. Nothing else is enough.

Let me be very clear here. Someone once said, “we do not need to listen to God because God has already communicated everything he had to say in scripture”. I simply do not believe that is true. When my wife read this statement she said, “So does that mean that God is dead and there is no holy spirit?” That seems to be a reasonable conclusion to me. Scripture, and other people’s commentary on scripture, can only tell me how the writers of both scripture and the writers of scripture commentary related to God. It can help clarify goals and practices, but it does not and cannot provide real two-way “communion”—real “sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings”. It ultimately does not and cannot take us to Divine Union. It can call us and lead us toward a deeper communion, but it is not that communion, and it is not near enough.

Then how does this communion take place? How does Divine Union actually happen? How does this Mysterious Other actually communicate with us and provide “guidance, strength, and courage”? There is a place deep inside of us I have come to call the Sacred Inner Being where this relationship—this communion can happen. One of the most profound goals of prayer in specific and the whole spiritual life in general is to discover, acknowledge, and develop an ongoing relationship with that Sacred Inner Being. It is here that we can develop real communion—a deep, ongoing, two way relationship and communication with God. It is precisely here that this Mysterious Other can provide us with that ongoing, day to day “guidance, strength, and courage” so central to living a spiritual life. It is here that divine union can happen. That Sacred Inner Being is always there. It is always available to us. Always! We have only to be open to it.

It is through prayer and spiritual practice that we can learn to quieten our ego driven turmoil and be attentive to that Sacred Inner Voice we so often ignore. As we learn to recognize the source of that Sacred Inner Voice in our prayer—in our time apart—over time it becomes a part of the way we approach and live our active lives. That Voice will more and more speak to us in the events of our day. It will provide us with that “guidance, strength, and courage” we need. Over time that voice will lead our lives and we will experience true Divine Union.

Two People Talking

Photo by Winnie Southworth

Listening to that sacred inner voice is not enough. If we are to experience true Divine Union we also have to be obedient to the “guidance, strength and courage” that comes to us through that Voice. We have to live our lives in response to that Voice. This is the very essence of what spiritual maturity is all about—learning to listen to our Sacred Inner Voice and be obedient to it in all of the myriad interactions we have with the people, events, and things in our day to day lives.

As a recent personal example, I have been looking for, or better said, wishing for, a really good life coach. I had convinced myself that I would not be able to find one that would really understand me, or as my grandson’s then girl friend once put it, that “really gets me”. I do not fit the traditional molds. I am not a traditional Christian. I am a strong introvert in a primarily extroverted world. And I am certainly not into the traditional culture.

So I am sitting in a group meeting I participate in. Everyone is engaged in small talk and I am wanting to be at home in my room. There is a woman there who I had never really connected with, but I did know that she was a coach. She started talking about something I was interested in, and I realized she was someone I could talk to. That said the introvert in me was resisting asking her about the coaching. As I was about to leave that Still Small Voice that I have come to trust “said to me” “Richard, you should really talk to her about coaching, and you should do it now”. The resistance in me was palpable, but I was “listening”, and I knew I needed to be “obedient” to the leading of that Sacred Inner Voice, so I walked up to her in the group and asked her about the coaching, something I would normally never even consider. We met a week later and really hit it off. It was clear to me that she really did “get me”, and we developed a coaching relationship that is really special to me.

If I had not been listening, and if I had not been obedient to what came to me I would still be complaining about not being able to find a coach that “gets me”. Let me be clear here, there was no audible voice that “spoke to me”. It was simply that “Still Small Voice” that rose up from that deep place in me that I have come to trust. It was just a clear awareness of what I was called to do, and I was listening to it, and I was obedient to it. I trusted it, and I knew it was guidance from that Mysterious Other I call God. (More about how we “know” and come to recognize and trust that inner voice later.)

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you recognize that Sacred Inner Voice in your life?  Does that voice sometimes speak to you and provide you with guidance, strength, and courage?  Do you trust that guidance?  Are you obedient to it? 

____________
* Apple Dictionary, iOS Software version 7.0.4., © 1983-2013, Apple, Inc. All rights reserved.
** Apple Dictionary, iOS Software version 7.0.4., © 1983-2013, Apple, Inc. All rights reserved.


If you liked this post, check out the other posts in this series:

Listening Obedience:  Attention Is Everything View…
Introduction

Developing Attention  View…
The Power of Focused Attention

Developing Openness  View…
Becoming Vulnerable 

Attention To Our Speech View…
The Discipline of Restraint of Speech

Developing Apatheia View
Attention To Our Thoughts, Emotions, and Impulses

Prayer (This post)
Attention To Our Sacred Inner Being

(Coming Soon)

Developing  A Way of Life
A Guide To Live By

Obedience
Seeking Consonance

Richard’s Rule of Life


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Aug 172016
 

This post is part of a series titled Choosing Authenticity: A Prayer of My Own.  It is Part 5/9 of Reflection III: of that series titled What Is Prayer Anyway | Examining Our Vision.


 Choosing Authenticity
A Prayer of My Own

Reflection III
What Is Prayer Anyway?
Examining Our Vision
(Part 5 of 9)

 

The Foundations of Prayer
Stillness, Quiet, and Silence

All too often we approach prayer as something we have to do—something we have to say. As Susan Cain put it in the subtitle of her book Quiet, we live in “a world that can’t stop talking”. Everywhere we go there is music and noise, in restaurants, in banks, and even in restrooms. As I write this my granddaughter is playing noisy video games on my iPad in the next room. As soon as we get up and when we come home we turn on the radio, our music, or the TV. Now we can listen to music and watch videos on our mobile phone wherever we are. We also live in a world that can’t stop doing either.

We carry those tendencies over into our spiritual life and even into our prayer. We have to “say our prayers.” We have to “take our time”. Even when we speak of contemplative prayer we have to quiet our mind, and we have to listen to God. We develop all kinds of prayer lists and methods to use when we pray. I get an electronic prayer list from my church via email each week, and I am given another printed updated prayer list in Sunday School each week. We are asked to pray for the people and the issues contained on these lists. We are encouraged to read scripture, recite psalms, and read from other spiritual texts as part of our prayer. I even have an app on my mobile phone that allows me to listen to multiple readings from the divine office several times a day.

Let me be clear, all of these and other active prayer practices are good and even necessary parts of the spiritual life. They are an important part of what prayer is all about. But so is stillness and quiet and silence. The title of a book I read once was Don’t Just Do Something. Sit There. Just “sit[ing] there”, just being still and just being quiet must also be a part of our vision of what prayer is for us.

Some time ago the rest of my family went on vacation for a week, and I stayed home alone. My intent was to treat the time as a retreat. I would spend time in prayer and contemplation, I would take long walks in the neighborhood, I would catch up on my reading, and I would focus on my current writing project. The truth is that I actually had a todo list for that retreat, and I was really looking forward to having time to work on the things on that list. After they all left I walked back into the living room and set down in my favorite chair. I did not do anything from my todo list. I just sat there. I was just silent. I just enjoyed the house being quiet. I did not try to quiet my mind in contemplative prayer, and I did not think about my writing. I just sat there enjoying the stillness and the quiet. For the first three days of my retreat I returned to this practice of just sitting quietly again and again. I did none of the things on that todo list. I took care of my meals and other personal items, and I sat in the quiet. I went to the YMCA and sat in the hot tub. There were times when I started to feel guilty and felt the cultural imperative that I should use the time more productively, but for the most part I did not actually do anything. For much of the time I just sat there and soaked in the stillness and the quiet.

Peace

Photo by Teresa Parr

Over time the external quiet of the empty house and of me just sitting still brought an inner quiet and peace as well. The tension in my body dissipated. I let go of the feeling of guilt for not being productive. I allowed myself to “just be” without talking or actually doing anything. I put my phone on “do not disturb” and I did not read my email. I never turned on the television or my music. I did not call or text anyone. It was the fourth day before I even looked at my todo list. When I began working on those items I found that I approached them very differently. Even my time apart for prayer and contemplation was different. I was present in that time differently. I was more open. My mind was less cluttered. As the week went on I found myself “just sitting” spontaneously during the day in a way that I could not do before and actually would not have thought to do before.

It has been my experience that these three things—stillness, quiet, and silence—form the very foundation for prayer. Without this foundation prayer all too often becomes just another item on our todo list. It becomes part of life out of balance. Prayer becomes a demand. It becomes something we do, not a real part of who we are and how we live our lives. For me these three practices are a essential part of my spiritual practice—of my prayer practice.

If I cannot be still, if I cannot be quiet, and if I cannot be silent—if I cannot experience these three foundational things both internally and externally, I cannot hope to really take my prayer practice to its deepest level. The imperative “Don’t Just Do Something. Sit There.” must be a foundational part of our prayer practice, and ultimately of the way we live our lives.

Question for Reflection

  1. How comfortable am I with being still, with being quiet, and with being silent? How easy is it for me to move to a place of inner and outer stillness and quiet, and silence when I pray? How is stillness, quiet, and silence a part of the way I live my life?

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Other Posts in this Reflection:

What Is Prayer Anyway?  View…
Seeking a Deeper Understanding

Prayer Is Not Magic View..
It Is No A ToDo List for God

Prayer Is A Relationship View…
Prayer Is Not A Monologue

The Foundation of Prayer (This Post)
Stillness, Quiet, and Silence

Types of Prayer View…
Expanding Our Vision of Prayer

Praying Without Ceasing  View…
Letting Our Lives Become Prayer

What Will Prayer Ask of Us? View…
The Call To Transformation

Richard’s Answer To Question # 4 View…

 

Jun 292016
 

This post is part of a series entitled Choosing Authenticity: A Prayer of Our Own.  It is the eighth section titled Reflection II:  Because We Must: The Call To Prayer.


 Choosing Authenticity
A Prayer of Our Own

Reflection II
Because We Must
The Call To Prayer
(Part 8)

An Experience of Prayer
A Call to Depth

It is important to recognize here that we can have any of these experiences whether or not we have any kind of current prayer practice. We can have experiences of awe and wonder, suffering and loss, and self-awareness without any current involvement with prayer at all, and if we are open to it those experiences can call us to prayer. But those experiences can also grow out of our current prayer practice as well, and again, if we are open to it, they can call us to deepen our current practice. Our lives obviously can be out of balance and call us to a deeper sense of balance whether or not we pray.

Yet beyond all of that we can have experiences of prayer in its own right. All too often we approach prayer in such a way that we have no expectation of any real experience. We “say our prayers”—our to do list for God—and we go on with the next item on our own to do list. We have no expectation that the Mysterious Other we call God will respond, or even show up at all. What is worse we often actually have an expectation that God will not show up and thus we are not really open to any kind of direct experience at all. Yet in spite of all of that sometimes we can have profound experiences in prayer that break through our defenses and surprise us and call us in ways we cannot imagine. These prayer experiences can call us to deepen our prayer practice and grow and change in ways that surprise us and challenge our preconceived ideas about prayer.

Richard At Alter

Photo by Winnie Southworth

Many years ago in the early days of my practice I wrote this personal prayer, and it has stuck with me all these years. I still use it to begin my time apart.

Come Holy Spirit of God
Rise up in me.


Fill me with your presence.

Open me to your wisdom and your guidance

and your strength
and your courage.


Grant me the grace of your love,

Your peace,
and your joy.


Come with me into this special time

Go with me as I take on the rest of this day.

Richard N. Southworth

As I came to my time apart this morning I was stuck in my writing in just this section. I knew what I wanted to say, but I simply could not figure out how to say it. How does one write about prayer experiences without sounding sentimental or presumptuous, two things I wanted to avoid. As usual I began my time by reciting this poem. I stood in front of my personal alter with my hands extended and my palms facing upwards, and I began: “Come Holy Spirit of God, rise up in me…” As I finished the prayer I realized suddenly that the answer to my writing dilemma was in this prayer. In it I was praying for that Mysterious Other I call God to “rise up in me”. I was seeking to connect with my sacred inner being. I was seeking presence, wisdom and guidance, strength and courage, love and peace and joy. Essentially this prayer I wrote many years ago was a list of possible prayer experiences. This insight was itself one of those experiences.

It is beyond the scope of this reflection to examine each of these types of prayer experiences in detail. The crucial thing here is for us to acknowledge to ourselves that they are possible. That Mysterious Other we call God can and does “rise up in us” and offer us “guidance, strength, and courage”, “love and peace and joy.” Those experiences can be quiet and peaceful, or they can be profound and emotional. Our job is to be open and listen and to be obedient to what we hear.

That all said, how do we know that what we experience—what we hear—comes from that Mysterious Other? How can we be sure these prayer experiences are real? It is beyond the scope of this reflection to examine the discernment process in any depth, but let me say this. If you are “prayed up” as my wife likes to put it, if you are praying regularly, you know. Somehow deep inside you just know, and that knowing calls to us. Sometimes suddenly and sometimes over time an ever deepening prayer is born out of those prayer experiences.

  1. Have I had experiences in prayer when that Mysterious Other I call God was present to me and called me to deepen my prayer practice?

Other Posts in this Reflection:

(Part 1) Introduction View…

(Part 2) Why Do We Pray View…
Seeking Satisfactory Answers

(Part 3) History   View…
Responding To A Call 

(Part 4) Awe And Wonder View…
The Call To Mystery

(Part 5) Suffering And Loss View…
Another Call To Mystery

(Part 6) Self-Awareness View…
Accepting Responsibility

(Part 7) Life Out Of Balance  View…
A Vision Of A New Life

(Part 8) An Experience Of Prayer (This Post)
A Call To Depth

(Part 9) Richard’s Answer To Question # 3 View…

 

Jun 252016
 

Quotes from Richard's Book

Jun 222016
 

This post is part of a series entitled Choosing Authenticity: A Prayer of Our Own.  It is the seventh section titled Reflection II:  Because We Must: The Call To Prayer.


 Choosing Authenticity
A Prayer of Our Own

Reflection II
Because We Must
The Call To Prayer
(Part 7)

Life Out of Balance
A Vision of a New Life

I cannot improve on these words of Tilden Edwards to describe the times we live in:

Inside us, driving, competing, confused desires and fears bounce us from fleeting pain to fleeting pleasure, making us ever restless, causing us to seek ever more and other there, rarely content with enough here.  That is man becoming without being, adrift without a compass, revolting in revolt, falling through in blindness calling it rising, or in darkness calling it damned.*

In the modern world these “driving, competing, confused desires and fears” often take the form of seemingly valid drives for what is sometimes called “the American dream.” We are driven to succeed in our jobs, own a larger home in a better neighborhood, and have a fancier car. We want our children to go to a better school, have all of the trendy clothes, and play on the right sports team. We race from one seeming imperative to another as we try to balance a myriad of jobs and family responsibilities, and in the end all of this becomes part of the turmoil in a way that is even more insidious because it is so much a part of the cultural imperatives that shape us.

I came home from work one day with my evening all planned. I wanted to look at the news, have a good quiet meal, do some writing, and go to bed early. I had no more than walked in the door when my wife told me that she was not feeling good and needed my help, and my oldest daughter called and wanted us to come over and order pizza with her and our grandchildren. When the evening was over I had not seen the news, had eaten pizza on the run, had not turned on my computer, and was late going to bed. None of these activities were difficult or negative, but I felt frustrated and grouchy all evening. The frustration and the grouchy feelings and behavior were driven by my own inner turmoil, and prevented me from enjoying helping my wife and kept her from getting the full benefit of that help. It kept me from enjoying time with my family, and it also prevented me from choosing to negotiate time for my own needs.

Schedule

Image by Richard Southworth

The turmoil created by these “driving, competing, confused desires and fears” seems to dominate our lives.  Much of our energy is consumed in the never-ending effort to meet their demands.  We are clearly motivated, and often driven, by these and other powerful thoughts, emotions, and impulses. Much, if not most, of the stress and the dissonance in our lives is the result of these powerful drives that seem to possess us and to have a mind of their own. Individuals or life events “push our buttons,” and we become ineffective, depressed, angry, or at times even violent. In spite of our best efforts, for many of us, these compulsive drives control much of our lives. Even those of us who seem reasonably well adjusted find ourselves surprised by the strength and power of these preconscious thoughts, emotions, and impulses.

At times this turmoil takes the form of a kind of numbness or indifference. We seem closed to the people, events, and things in our life. On the surface we appear unaffected by the turmoil around us. But like anger or anxiety or fear, the numbness and indifference are themselves an expression of the turmoil. It is made up of its own compulsive thoughts, emotions, and impulses, and it both drives us and limits us in powerful ways. This numbness and indifference can also be an unconscious, yet powerful, defense mechanism that distracts us from the drives which often seem overwhelming. Identifying and owning that hidden turmoil is crucial to the Spiritual Journey.

Unfortunately our involvement in church often becomes another part of the turmoil. Instead of helping to heal the turmoil it adds to it. Beyond going to church and Sunday School on Sunday, we gradually accumulate other responsibilities and activities that add to the list of things that we need to somehow balance. We join a committee, We become a deacon, we participate in a mission project. We go to Wednesday night supper and participate in a bible study. We join the choir, visit the sick, and we take our children to their activities. All of these things are essentially good things. They are what we believe we are supposed to do as Church members, but when taken to extremes and added to our other responsibilities and activities they

Image by Richard Southworth become part of what keeps our life out of balance. They contribute to the turmoil, and in my experience church teaching does little or nothing to help us manage the pressures of trying to balance all of the responsibilities. It just encourages us to ever more participation. In my opinion this is one of the reasons the churches continue to loose individuals and families. It just becomes too much and we walk away from church altogether.

The turmoil affects each of us individually in a thousand less overtly destructive ways. Every time I “lose my temper,” yell at my wife and children, give an obscene gesture to an aberrant driver, or say something hurtful about a coworker, I am acting in response to thoughts and emotions that are rooted in the turmoil. Whenever inappropriate, anxiety or fear prevents me from reaching my fullest potential the block is rooted in the turmoil. When my mind is so full of thoughts about my work that I find myself unable to give my full attention to a conversation I am having or to the book I am reading, the thoughts are being driven by the turmoil. Every time I overeat or go searching through the refrigerator because “I’m just really craving something!” I am responding to an impulse that is part of the turmoil.

For many, if not most of us, this compulsive, driven behavior has become such a “normal” way of life that we have lost even the awareness that there is another way of being in the world. And yet, if we pay attention, somewhere deep inside of each of us there is a “still small voice” that speaks to us of a different kind of longing—a powerful calling to a different kind of life.  We long for a life that is free of this destructive inner turmoil.  If we listen to that still small voice behind the turmoil, we discover at least a vague outline of a vision of a new life. We wonder if it is possible to really quieten the turmoil so this yearning and this deeper vision can become a reality.. We wonder if it is possible to actually live our lives in response to that vision. If we pay attention to that still small voice and take it really seriously, if we sit with the questions that voice raises, the call to prayer rises up out of the turmoil.

  1. What compulsive thoughts, emotions, and impulses tend to drive my day-to-day life? What destructive habits prevent me from living my life fully and authentically? Focus especially on situations where I feel pressured to do, do, do and just want to get away from it all Consider such things as anger, addictions, and violent behavior. Describe these issues in detail. What are the roots of that behavior? How do I feel called to respond?

____________

Edwards, Tilden, Spiritual Friend:  Reclaiming the Gift of Spiritual Direction. (Ramsey, New Jersey:  Paulist Press, 1980), p. 14.


Other Posts in this Reflection:

(Part 1) Introduction View…

(Part 2) Why Do We Pray View…
Seeking Satisfactory Answers

(Part 3) History   View…
Responding To A Call 

(Part 4) Awe And Wonder View…
The Call To Mystery

(Part 5) Suffering And Loss View…
Another Call To Mystery

(Part 6) Self-Awareness View…
Accepting Responsibility

(Part 7) Life Out Of Balance (This Post)
A Vision Of A New Life

(Part 8) An Experience Of Prayer View…
A Call To Depth

(Part 9) Richard’s Answer To Question # 3 View…

 

Jun 152016
 

This post is part of a series entitled Choosing Authenticity: A Prayer of Our Own.  It is the sixth section titled Reflection II:  Because We Must: The Call To Prayer.


 Choosing Authenticity
A Prayer of Our Own

Reflection II
Because We Must
The Call To Prayer
(Part 6)

Self-Awareness
Accepting Responsibility

This calling to prayer can also manifest itself through a profound experience of self-awareness. When I threw the plate of food across the room that was a real moment of self-awareness for me. There had been all too many other such moments–all too many angry outbursts followed by fussing, cussing, and, maybe most importantly, indignantly blaming others for my reactions. This was different. There was the food and broken pieces of the dish all over the floor and the wall, and there were the looks from my family. And there was the silence that followed. That silence was deafening. My wife finally just got up and started cleaning it all up which somehow capped the experience for me. Something clicked in me. The self-awareness was palpable. The guilt was palpable. Somehow I knew this event was mine. I had to own it. I was responsible for this reaction, not the other people in the room—me! Somehow I knew this time I could not blame this on anyone else. But the responsibility went deeper. I was aware that I was also responsible for the effect these reactions had on the other people in the room as well. I do not know why this particular event brought this level of self-awareness, but it did. On one level I suspect it was because of the broken plate and the food on the floor and the wall, but there was something else. Something deeper. Something unexplainable. Something mysterious. Some would say that God intervened. Some would say that the time was just right and I was in the right place. On some level I agree with all of that, On another level I sense something more, something even deeper. In the silence of that moment prayer was born—prayer was deepened. In that moment I was called in a powerful way to pray in a deeper way. In that moment I was called to grow and change in a new and more powerful way. I was called to be transformed. That call—that prayer—is still active in me today. After some twenty-five years the anger still shows up from time to time, and still calls me to prayer. Someone once pointed out that we have a real awareness of sin when we become aware of how much we hurt others just being ourselves. This was such an experience. This experience of self-awareness was not only a call to prayer and transformation it was a major turning point on my spiritual journey.

Richard In a mirror

Photo By Winnie Southworth

It is very important to recognize here that the specific issues involved in this experience of self-awareness will be different for different people. In my case the issue was anger and the effect that anger had on my family. For some, the issue is substance abuse, extra-marital affairs, emotional or physical abuse, unavailability, etc. The possible issues are legion. This self-awareness does not always involve hurting someone else either. Sometimes it can at least seem to only affect the quality of our own life. It also does not have to be something blatantly serious either. It can be something as simple as watching too much television and not spending time with our loved ones, The crucial point here is that we become aware, suddenly or over time, of some behavior that is hurting others and/or ourselves. In the end it is becoming aware of something in our life that needs to change, where we need to grow and be transformed. It is becoming aware of a call to take responsibility for that growth and transformation. In that self-awareness prayer is born.

Yet, like the other experiences we have looked at, we can avoid this calling as well. We can choose to see it as a momentary event and fail to take it seriously. We can convince ourselves that there is nothing we can do about it. What is worse we can even pray about it, ask God to fix it, and continue to go about our lives as we always have, waiting on God to fix it. Essentially we can fail to take responsibility for the problem—we can remain unwilling to do the real “work of the spiritual journey”. In the end we walk away from the call to prayer and sometimes we walk away from God.

Question for Reflection

  1. Have I had an experience of self-awareness that called me to prayer and to growth and transformation? How did I respond? Describe the experience and the response.

Other Posts in this Reflection:

Other Posts in this Reflection:

(Part 1) Introduction View…

(Part 2) Why Do We Pray View…
Seeking Satisfactory Answers

(Part 3) History   View…
Responding To A Call 

(Part 4) Awe And Wonder View…
The Call To Mystery

(Part 5) Suffering And Loss View…
Another Call To Mystery

(Part 6) Self-Awareness  (This Post)
Accepting Responsibility

(Part 7) Life Out Of Balance  View…
A Vision Of A New Life

(Part 8) An Experience Of Prayer View…
A Call To Depth

(Part 9) Richard’s Answer To Question # 3 View…

 

Jun 112016
 

Quotes from Richard's Book

Jun 042016
 

Quotes from Richard's Book | 20160604

Jun 012016
 

This post is part of a series entitled Choosing Authenticity: A Prayer of Our Own.  It is the fourth section titled Reflection II:  Because We Must: The Call To Prayer.


 Choosing Authenticity
A Prayer of Our Own

Reflection II
Because We Must
The Call To Prayer
(Part 4)

Awe And Wonder
A Call to Mystery

This calling manifests itself in our lives in different ways.  Maybe the most obvious way is through experiences of awe and wonder.  We look up at the night sky on a clear night and we see thousands upon thousands of stars.  We realize the vast amazing wonder and mystery of the universe.  We sense with amazement our tiny but wondrous place in it.  We look into the face of an infant and realize with awe and wonder that it is a part of us and yet it is somehow unique from every other being in this vast universe.  We are awestruck wondering what this tiny writhing potential might become.  In the face of these and a thousand other wonders, questions rise up in us, sometimes just perceptibly and sometimes powerfully,  and they call to us.  Where does it all come from?  What does it all mean?  Where do I fit into the vastness of this great universe?  What does my life really mean?  Who am I called to be?  How am I called to live my unique life?  How do I know?  How is it even possible to know?  Even if I knew, how is it possible to actually become that in a world that is so full of its own demands, its own agenda for our lives?  How do I connect with that “something” that is behind it all—how do I connect with that Mysterious Other we call God?  For some these questions rise up in a specifically Christian context.  For others they rise up in more secular terms, or in the language and symbols of other religious traditions.  However they are phrased, these questions call to us profoundly, and the only satisfactory response is prayer in some form.  Ultimately the only satisfactory answer is to sit quietly in the face of the awesomeness of it all and listen.  In that moment prayer is born in us.

Rachel As A Baby

Photo by Winnie Southworth

Yet in our culture experiences of awe are not all that frequent.  The dictionary defines awe this way:

An overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like.

How often do we even use terms like reverence, grand, sublime, extremely powerful?  These words point to something beyond our routine experience.  They point to something beyond our knowledge and understanding. They point to something that spiritual writers across religions have referred to as mystery.  Again the dictionary defines mystery this way:

Anything that is kept secret or remains unexplained or unknown.

It is that sense of something that is unexplained or unknown that lies behind the feelings like reverence,  grand, etc.  It is that sense of mystery that makes those feelings? overwhelming.  To experience awe and wonder we must be open to a sense of mystery, and for many of us that sense of mystery has been lost.  If we are outside at night at all we are usually on a mission.  When we look up into the night sky we see the many stars and the moon, if we are paying attention, and if those heavenly bodies are not hidden by too much light pollution.  Yet science has given us just enough of an explanation for all of that to satisfy us.  We may see the beauty, but not necessarily mystery and awe.

With all of our busyness our minds are too full for us to even look beyond that.  With all of our technology we can find answers, such as they are, to most all of our questions.  But even beyond that it seems that we no longer think really deeply about much of anything.  We accept the easy answers provided by the culture, the church, and Google, and thus seldom even recognize the unanswered questions and the mystery that comes with those questions.  That sense of awe and wonder escapes us.  In the process we miss the opportunity for that call from the Mysterious Other we call God.  We miss the call to prayer.

  1. Have I had an experience of awe and wonder?  Describe that experience in detail.  What was my reaction?  What questions arose in me as a result of that experience?  What was my response?

Other Posts in this Reflection:

(Part 1) Introduction View…

(Part 2) Why Do We Pray View…
Seeking Satisfactory Answers

(Part 3) History   View…
Responding To A Call 

(Part 4) Awe And Wonder (This Post)
The Call To Mystery

(Part 5) Suffering And Loss View…
Another Call To Mystery

(Part 6) Self-Awareness View…
Accepting Responsibility

(Part 7) Life Out Of Balance  View…
A Vision Of A New Life

(Part 8) An Experience Of Prayer View…
A Call To Depth

(Part 9) Richard’s Answer To Question # 3 View…

 

May 252016
 

This post is part of a series entitled Choosing Authenticity: A Prayer of Our Own.  It is the first section titled Reflection II:  Because We Must: The Call To Prayer.


 Choosing Authenticity
A Prayer of Our Own

Reflection II
Because We Must
The Call To Prayer
(Part 3)

History
Responding To A Call.

We can trace this call to prayer back to the earliest days of human existence.  Archeologists have found paintings on cave walls and the remains of all kinds of ritualistic activities going back thousands of years indicating early human responses to this inner call to prayer—this call to relate to something deeper and bigger than ourselves and yet a part of ourselves, long before there were organized religions per se.  In more recent times all of the varied cultures of the world have developed innumerable responses to this call.  In states that have tried to suppress it, it has endured, sometimes in the underground, and sometimes in open defiance and rebellion. The Nazi holocaust is but one blatant example.  As awful as that time was many of the victims of that atrocity still found ways to respond to that inner call. We have only to look at The Diary of Anne Frank for one powerful example. Admittedly some of these developments have been questionable—even destructive and violent, but many of them have also been passionate and life giving.

Cave Drawings

Image from bigstockphoto.com

Whatever else that can be said about the vast array of religious practice we humans have developed over the centuries, it seems clear that there is a deep inner call in us to connect with something deep inside of us and all around us—a call, the only formative response to which is prayer with all of its challenges, in all of its complexity, in all of its different forms, and ultimately in all of its beauty and sacredness as well.  In the end we pray because we must, but that sacred inner voice calls us not just to pray but to go further.  It calls us to go where we sometimes are reluctant to go.  Prayer, if we take it really seriously, calls us to change, to growth, to transformation, and to conversion of heart. It calls us to live truly authentic lives.  Prayer calls us to live our lives differently, and to be present in the events of our lives in a whole new way. This change and growth—this movement toward authenticity, is the thing we long for in the deepest part of ourselves, but it is also the thing we often fear the most. We long for it because it calls us to become the very essence of who we were created to be—of who we truly are. We fear it because, intuitively we know it will change us in ways that we cannot even imagine.

Make no mistake, true prayer taken seriously is hard work. It is The Work of the Spiritual Journey. As we shall see, it is more than having a relationship with that Mysterious Other we call God. It is more than the traditional approaches of praise, adoration, communion, conversation, petition, penance, and forgiveness. It involves all of those things and much more. Prayer, in its deepest sense, also involves solitude, listening, discovery, and incarnation. In the end it involves something the monastics call Divine Union. In the next several reflections we will take a look at each of those topics.

  1. Do I feel a call to spiritual growth, transformation, and conversion of heart? What would it take for me to respond to that call?

 


Other Posts in this Reflection:

(Part 1) Introduction View…

(Part 2) Why Do We Pray View…
Seeking Satisfactory Answers

(Part 3) History  (This Post)
Responding To A Call 

(Part 4) Awe And Wonder View…
The Call To Mystery

(Part 5) Suffering And Loss View…
Another Call To Mystery

(Part 6) Self-Awareness View…
Accepting Responsibility

(Part 7) Life Out Of Balance  View…
A Vision Of A New Life

(Part 8) An Experience Of Prayer View…
A Call To Depth

(Part 9) Richard’s Answer To Question # 3 View…

 

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