Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Humility of Prayer


I agree with the statement of Ronald Knox that: 'We must accustom men’s minds to the notion that it does not matter what the politicians do, does not matter if it bishops seem to let us down. We belong to a spiritual kingdom, complete in itself, owing nothing to worldly alliances.' I do not think it means we must ignore the world, let it go to pot. As we discover more about the spiritual kingdom, which is the infinite presence of God, who is all good, fills all space, is changeless, perfect and eternal - now - we can see and experience this world in a new light. Even when my limited human mind does not perceive this I know it is so. We cannot ignore the world. It is too beautiful and too holy. How we view it, how we experience it, depends on from where we view it. 
Joyce Grenfell, In Pleasant Places, p. 171

Among all the fallout from the EU Referendum it is far too easy to forget that spiritually, things are the same as they ever were. Love, and the mercy of God, are not threatened by referendums, nor even by the heartless behaviour that some have shown in the days leading up to, and following the result. Prayer is not less necessary, but more so, and more urgently; and the outcome of prayer - generosity, kindness and healing - is the real antidote to despair, anxiety and anger. Hate is not quenched by hate, but by love; fire is not extinguished by yet hotter fire, but by the pouring out of cool water.

Our faithfulness is practiced in the little things, the daily responsibilities. In all the rush and bustle of events and circumstances, it is so easy to be distracted - to snap instead of to answer courteously, do a botched and hurried job, completely fail to notice someone else's suffering. Sometimes we chase trails of worry about the future, nostalgia or resentment about the past, leaving the present moment unattended to. We lost sight of Jesus. 'Oh, what? I thought he was with you!' [Luke 2.43ff]
Penelope Wilcock, writing in New Daylight
Prayer can only take place in the present moment: it being the opening of our hearts to God, who is eternal, there is nowhere else for it to take place but the "intersection of the timeless moment" (TS Eliot, Little Gidding). Too much public, and even private, intercessory prayer, it seems to me, is concerned with the future - even with the past. It is the conscious inhabitation of the present moment that is the special place of contemplative prayer, and in the silent prayer of the heart we can allow God access, in complete vulnerability, to all our anxieties and longings, both those of which we are aware and those hidden even from ourselves, without our attention being taken up with their recitation and their rehearsal. Then, open to "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding" (Philippians 4.7), our prayer is one with God's, and with those of our sisters and brothers who are caught up in the moment's action. It is only in the humility of prayer, hidden as it is, that the victory of Christ, the Cross, becomes our own, and through us becomes available to those for whom our prayer is prayed.

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