On Prayer

Posted on: August 8, 2019, by :

[This article is adapted from the text of my reflection at The Avenue on Sunday 28th July.]

We acknowledge that we meet on Wurundjeri land and we express our appreciation to the First Peoples for their care of this land, paying our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.  I would also like to acknowledge the deep spiritual awareness of the First Peoples, and the abiding wisdom of their Dreamtime stories, encapsulating their sacred connection to the land and the cosmos through the creative Spirit they name Bunjil.

Our theme for today is ‘On Prayer’.  My intention is that our gathering will be less about prayer and more a prayer, inviting you to engage that deep place within you – your soul – where our deepest yearnings touch the Spirit of Creation.

In the western Christian tradition, prayer has become far too dependent on words, words and more words, as we seek to tell God what God needs to do, or seek to tell God how to fix our broken world, or seek to tell each other how bad and hopeless we are, or perhaps how good and holy I am. Prayer has become too much about words, too noisy. 

I believe prayer is less about speaking and more about listening, less about being noisy and more about being quiet.  I would suggest that the purest form of prayer is wonder, and the most profound wonder is best expressed through silence.

This is not an original thought, of course.  It has long been affirmed within spiritual traditions, reflected in the Buddhist practice of mindfulness, in the Sufi cultivation of wonder, in the Hindu practice of meditation, and in the Judeo-Christian heritage of contemplative practice.

Each week in this place we light the Christ Candle to remind us of the presence and nearness of God’s Spirit.  Candles have long been associated with prayer and meditation – possibly due to the imagery of smoke ascending to heaven like the prayers of the faithful.  I also like to see the flickering yet persistent flame as representative of the human spirit – now strong, now frail, but always offering light in the darkness. Here, then, are some aspects of prayer that I find more important than words! 

  • Prayer is art: it is essentially creative, longing that things might be made new.  And prayer is a yearning: it is the hope of the heart, the dreaming of the soul.
  • Prayer is ‘childlike’: not immature, but joyful and innocent, naïve and unpretentious.  And prayer is liberating: it proclaims peace, presence, ease and freedom.  It invites us to ‘let go’ – not absolving us of responsibility, but enabling us to walk just a little lighter as our responsibilities and burdens are shared.
  • Prayer is ‘coming home’ to a place of awareness and self-understanding, of wisdom and acceptance, a place where you are known.  Prayer is essentially being drawn to a place of pure wonder!
There comes a moment 
when there arises in your soul
a movement that you are
at a loss to describe. 
It moves you to desire
you know not what,
only that it is beyond your imagining. 
It is God at work within you. 
Let God do (God’s) work. 
Let God lead you as (God) will. 
God needs only your consent. 
Be content not to see,
and put aside your need to know. 
Accept that something is moving
loving within you,
even if you do not recognise
that it is God at work.
  [John Kirvan]

David

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