Friday, December 30, 2016

We are most temporary...

God’s operations, his manner, and his swiftness are simply unable to be discerned. As the Creator’s working abound more and more with us, they will absorb our own self-efforts. 
It seems as though the stars shine more brightly before the sun rises and gradually vanish as the light advances. They have not really become invisible. A greater light has simply absorbed the lesser light. 
This is also the case with your self-effort in prayer. Since God’s light is so much greater, it absorbs our little flickers of activity. They will grow faith and eventually disappear until all self-effort to experience God is no longer distinguishable. 
I have heard the accusation from some that this is a “prayer of inactivity”. They are wrong. Such charges come from the inexperienced… 
The fullness of grace will still the activity of self. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that you remain as silent as possible… 
God’s presence is not a stronghold to be taken by force or violence. His is a kingdom of peace, which can only be gained by love. God demands nothing extraordinary or difficult. On the contrary… 
Jeanne Guyon, Experiencing God Through Prayer

Our prayer, it seems to me, has everything to do with our experience of God. If we basically lack this experience, our minds being filled with ideas about God (“notions” as the early Quakers would have said), we shall understand prayer as something – some demand or supplication – addressed to a being within a known universe, whereas the God of direct experience is not that kind of being at all. In fact “being” in not really a term that applies to God. God is the ground of being, and the universe, all that exists, exists in, and is contingent upon, God; and Christ is one name for that becoming known. The opening verses of John’s Gospel explain this perfectly well.

We are small and contingent parts of all that has come into being, and we are most temporary. We cannot know God as we know each other. To think that we can is a category mistake, and so is thinking that because God cannot be so known, there is no God. Of course there is no such thing as God, but that is not because there is no God: it is because God is not a thing. Things are merely things God does.

All we can do is find some way – whether it be sinking down into the silence of our joined worship, down to the seed of which Isaac Penington spoke, or whether it be the a practice like watching the breath, centring prayer, or the Jesus Prayer or the Nembutsu – of ceasing to try and know or be or do anything, and let God’s Spirit come into the heart in God’s own time. All we can do is be still; all we can give is love.

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