September 21, 2006

I have a spiritual formation class, in which we discuss lots of wonderful things.  I thought I would share with you this description of prayer from that class.

Our minds are always working.  We spend most of our time playing tapes from the past.  We spend lots of time also imagining the future.

It is very difficult to be present.  Being present– right here, right now– in this moment, not two seconds ago, but right now– is prayer.

Prayer comes in so many different ways.  We may be talking to God.  We may be walking.  Hiking.  Dancing.  Meditating.  Whatever.

But being present, here and now, is what does it.

Breathing is often used in contemplative practices to accomplish being present.  Focus on breathing helps us to be present in the right here and now because we cannot be focused on two things at once, and breathing is right here and now.

Once, in a small group I was in, a participant said she was working on “trying to widen the crack between the past and the future.”  I think that is another way of saying she was trying to make her spiritual life more intentional.

My rector, Ed Bacon, likes to compare it to dirty water, sifting to the bottom.  He even had someone give him a jar full of muddy water, so he could shake it up and watch the dirt settle to the bottom.  For him, when the water was dirty that was like having all of the thoughts, past and future, clouding the mind from the here and now– preventing the soft, still voice from emerging; preventing the light from coming in through the clear water.

Prayer is a wonderful thing.  There is no wrong way to do it.  What a shame we don’t spend more time talking about it in parish life.  My sense is that we can spend a lifetime working on it and still have more to talk about.  May God be with you in your prayer practice.



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