Monday, November 06, 2006

Prayer does not blind us...

Prayer does not blind us to the world, but it transforms our vision of the world, and makes us see it, all men, and all the history of mankind, in the light of God. To pray "in spirit and in truth" enables us to enter into contact with that infinite love, that inscrutable freedom which is at work behind the complexities and intricacies of human existence.

Thomas Merton: Contemplative Prayer, 1969, Herder and Herder

People of prayer from the more 'Evangelical' streams of the church are occasionally suspicious of contemplative prayer. Sometimes this is because they mistakenly confuse it with mantric forms of meditation, such are are practised by followers of TM, but often it's because they feel it is an escape from the world, a turning inward, away from the pain and the confusion of a broken creation. But Merton and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, are at one on this. You'll recall the quote from Ramsey I used on the index page of The Mercy Site:

Contemplation is for all Christians... [It] means essentially our being with God, putting ourselves in his presence, being hungry and thirsty for him, wanting him, letting heart and mind move towards him; with the needs of the world on our heart.

Contemplative prayer brings us closer than ever to the inconsolable pain of our fellow mortals, human and animal; unbearably close, closer than empathy, something close to the very compassion of God. This would be unbearable, more than the human mind or heart could withstand, if it were not for the fact that in prayer, in contemplative prayer particularly, we are enabled to bring this pain and need into God's very presence - by his grace and mercy in Jesus, who has opened the way for us (Hebrews 10:19ff) - to him who heals all things, renews all things (Revelation 21:5) and who will ultimately "be their shepherd, and... guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." (Rev. 7:17) We can safely put all things into his nail-pierced hands, and know peace, for in him, "all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well," as another contemplative, Julian of Norwich, once wrote.

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