Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Pray Without Ceasing? - Jeff Wiersma

Spirituality isn’t mountaintop experiences and other-worldly bliss far from the cares and concerns of life below. Rather, spirituality is part and parcel of our everyday lives, as hectic and imperfect as they are.

Have you ever struggled with the idea of prayer, let alone actually doing it or "praying without ceasing" like the Bible mentions in one verse?  Maybe you wouldn't know what to say or think you're too messed up to even know where to begin?

I know I that I've certainly felt all of things.  I've especially had difficulty with the idea of praying to ask God for something or to do something.  It always felt too deterministic to me.  God isn't a vending machine and doesn't suspend the natural laws of the universe.

I think the root of the problem is two-fold.

One, our post-enlightenment culture has all the different aspects of life divided into rigid compartments (we have this mind set to blame for the false dichotomy of "Christian" and "secular).  Among those, spirituality is often perceived as residing in a distinct compartment that is other-worldly and transcendent.

Two, we think of prayer as closing our eyes, folding our hands, bowing our heads and conversing with an invisible entity (more on that later).

David Steindl-Rast wrote, "Sometimes people get the mistaken notion that spirituality is a separate department of life."

Somehow we get the notion that spirituality is the luxurious, top floor, executive suite of our existence.  I suppose that's to be expected when so much of Commodified Churchianity is marketed and expressed that way.

Steindl-Rast continues. "But rightly understood, spirituality is an all-encompassing awareness."

Another way of saying that would be to describe spirituality as the lens we see all of our universe through.

So spirituality isn’t mountaintop experiences and other-worldly bliss far from the cares and concerns of life below. Rather, spirituality is part and parcel of our everyday lives, as hectic and imperfect as they are.

One way that I’ve found to be helpful in thinking about prayer is to see it as “connecting with God.” Here's how I see that playing out:
  • Just like spirituality and our everyday lives are interrelated and interconnected, so is God and everything in the universe. 
  • Because we’re all connected, we can learn to see God in everything we’re connected to. 
  • All that connecting would require is for us to be aware; to have our eyes open and be on the lookout for God in anything and everything on a daily basis.
What a relief! I mean, if you literally prayed without ceasing by closing your eyes, bowing your head and folding your hands ... the dishes wouldn't get done, the kid wouldn't get their lunches packed, your boss would certainly fire you before long, etc.  Obviously I'm exaggerating, but I'm trying to show the lumps that we should take where our logic leads us.

But if prayer is a mindset, an awareness, an attitude ... that sure sounds like something anyone can do. Then prayer wouldn't be just for someone who has endless hours to sit in solitude and pray. Prayer isn't some spiritual super power that only someone who has gone to church their whole life can wield. It wouldn't be just for someone who seems to have it all figured when it comes to prayer, not just for someone whose life doesn’t seem to be pock-marked with failure and brokeness like yours or might be.

Obviously there’s nothing wrong with working to heal the brokeness in your life or making time for contemplation. But you don't NEED to be some kind of a saint or to retreat from everyday life to some spiritual oasis to pray.

You can come as you are and pray where you are. It’s as simple as being on the look out for God, honestly and sincerely.

Are we paying attention?