Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday Five: Prayer of Quiescence

Jan wrote: At the beginning of this past week, I attended a conference on contemplative prayer entitled “Turning to the Mystics” at the 2013 Summer Institute at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX. The speakers were James Finley, author and former novice of Thomas Merton; Mirabai Starr, author, translator, and speaker; and Father Ronald Rolheiser, author and president of OST. We were encouraged to regularly sit in quiet to come to realize our union with the Divine, who continually loves us into being.

So for this Friday Five, let us share about our prayer practices, whether silent or not:

Jan labeled her post Prayer of Silence (or not). As you might have already noticed mine is titled the Prayer of Quiescence. My answers to Jan's questions below should make clear why I chose my title.  

1. How do you pray?
The best way to explain my prayer is as a continuous running conversation, a dialogue not monologue, in my heart and mind with Jesus, Holy Spirit and God.(Definitely shades of I Thessalonians 5: 17 "pray without ceasing!")  

2. How has your idea of prayer changed over time?
Boy, has it changed! Initially (as a youngster) I presented God with my list of praises and my challenges, then as I grew older (much much older) I moved on to think of God as co-partner of my life and finally, learned to surrender to Jesus as Savior, Master, Lord, and Teacher. Prayer then started as a bunch of requests using my own words, moved to praying the prayers of all our faith heroes and heroines in the Bible, and finally allowing the Spirit to pray for me when I didn't, couldn't have the words or even the thoughts and feelings. Nowadays it is less of me talking and more about listening. To what is God drawing my attention, what is He telling me? Where is the Holy Spirit leading me in this or that situation? How do I hear the voice of Jesus? How beloved by God do I feel or am I angry with Him? Even my own thoughts are quieter now. Although I still have a lot of questions I pay more attention to what I am feeling and instead of suppressing it as right or wrong simply offering them to God for Him to do as He will,

3. Do you ever sit in silent prayer? How does it go?
About 5 or 7 years ago I learned Lectio Dvina and also the Ignatian Examen and other forms of praying (meditation, contemplation, visualization) when I did the year long Ignatius Spiritual Exercises. Since then I have been doing the Examen daily last thing at night (15 - 30 minutes) pretty consistently. In the beginning I used to journal it. Nowadays, I am more likely to kneel quietly and follow the 5 steps in my own unique combination of Wilkie Au's crabgrass contemplation and the original forms of the Examen by Ignatius of Loyola: Attitude of Gratitude, Confession and Forgiveness, 24-hr survey, Prayer for Enlightenment and Discernment, Prayer for Increased Hope and Love (where I let God show me what's coming up the next day). When I teach Bible study I open with Lectio, about 15-20 minutes sometimes more.

I've noticed these things about silent prayer - which btw, I define as praying silently in my mind for people and places with whom I cannot be and for requests that cannot be spoken aloud, trying to make my every thought captive to God, and also as prayer where I don't present God with a list of things but let the Holy Spirit lead me in a dialogue with him and Jesus: 1) The first thing I do as I lie on my bed in the halfway state between waking up and sleeping is surrendering to Jesus and giving my thoughts, day, the people in my life and everything to God, asking Him to lead me that day. I've also tried to train myself to go to sleep and wake up with Jesus' words on the cross as my last and first conscious thought: "Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit." 2) As I get ready for my morning divine appointment I let the Spirit lead me in prayer. 3) It requires daily self-discipline not to get side-tracked or distracted but I try to make spending time with God my first act of the day. Thinking of it as a divine appointment helps me keep it faithfully. In all my years as an educator I never once late or missed a class and this is so much more important! 4) During the divine appointment itself, depending on the Spirit's leading, I may meditate on a Gospel story; I put myself into the picture with Jesus, imagining details, the feel and smell of it all. I don't exactly know why but this never fails to increase my gratitude, sense of peace, and joy. I feel blessed because I always find that somehow in this time with God daily living needs have also been addressed. 5) This sort of daily leaning into Christ, I have found, is a far better way to pray for me than always presenting God with a bunch of requests, even when they are good ones. For example, I have become a more patient person; for years I struggled with impatience and anger. This simple practice has made me more patient than all the prayers I used to pray for a sweeter tempered me!

4. Do you have any difficulties and/or pleasures in prayer?
I could probably do this endlessly :). But, I am like a child sometimes easily distracted and so I do have to watch out for that. Also, there is resistance to prayer which I must consciously admit and offer to God, not always successfully.

My pleasure is in the quiescence - or quiescent - accepting -  state - and what comes after. It is a state unlike any other. I am still (Be still and know that I am God), inactive, dormant, at rest in Christ. I am like the long-dormant volcano, later exploding with passionate energy graced to work for Him totally freed from ambition, striving and worldly pressures.

5. What is the best advice that helped you with prayer?
Rosalind Rinker in one of her classic books on Conversational Prayer suggests praying for faith-sized requests, only for the things that I believe God can do. This was a challenge and I'm still learning about "ye, of little faith" as Jesus said.

Bonus: Share something about prayer or an example of a prayer you like.
One of my experiences of silent prayer was when my Dad was passing away. I could not be with him physically and yet I could feel myself with him 24/7 along with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit completely took over me. It was a very powerful experience that I have never forgotten. I was also blessed with a brother in Christ who stood in prayer with me together with my women's Bible study group and other members of family and faith community. Subsequently, I also received other incredible gifts of insight into God's transcendental time and space as I processed this experience. My faith deepened and my prayer life was changed profoundly.

I love 2 prayers from the Compline, Book of Common Prayer:

Opening Prayer: The Lord Almighty grant us a peaceful night and a perfect end. Amen.

Collect:  O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live: Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other's toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

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