Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Praying as a butterfly over the Grand Canyon…

The world is aflame with evil and atrocity; the scandal of perpetual desecration of the world cries to high heaven. And we, coming face to face with it, are either involved as callous participants or, at best, remain indifferent onlookers....

We pray because the disproportion of human misery and human compassion is so enormous. We pray because our grasp of the depth of suffering is comparable to the scope of perception of a butterfly flying over the Grand Canyon. We pray because of the experience of the dreadful incompatibility of how we live and what we sense.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Wisdom of Heschel, with thanks to inward/outward

Heschel died in 1972, yet these words have a dreadful up-to-the-minute quality about them. You will not need me to catalogue the immensity of suffering that we do know about—a glance at the BBC or MSN News website will do that all too well—and it will be immediately apparent that if our knowledge of what we should be praying for is so meagre (Romans 8:26) then we need a way to pray that will allow the Spirit free reign to “intercede for us with sighs too deep for words…”

There are many references online and in physical libraries to contemplative prayer, and to praying in tongues, and other means of praying in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18), but for me the Jesus Prayer has for half my life nearly been the way God has led me. Princess Ileana of Romania explains it well:

The Jesus Prayer can be used for worship and petition; as intercession, invocation, adoration, and as thanksgiving. It is a means by which we lay all that is in our hearts, both for God and man, at the feet of Jesus. It is a means of communion with God and with all those who pray. The fact that we can train our hearts to go on praying even when we sleep, keeps us uninterruptedly within the community of prayer. This is no fanciful statement; many have experienced this life-giving fact. We cannot, of course, attain this continuity of prayer all at once, but it is achievable; for all that is worthwhile we must “…run with patience the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1) …

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