In a past blog, I mentioned that our class is going to study the Early Church Mystics. While we have studied a few of them, it became clear in our conversations that we need to break things down into smaller bits. Also, in order to have a common language, we will be reviewing the words used to talk about prayer and spiritual disciplines in church history as well as in the Lutheran church. We began using this document in order to have a common reference point: The Power of Intention in our Prayers. The table looks like this:
You will note that there are three blank columns as we begin. It is our hope that as you join us in our study of prayer, you will also join us in your own review of your spiritual life and practice. In each column, we will begin to talk about the ways we see God in the World, God in Your Neighbor, and God in Your life. Our model for this study is of course, The Lord’s Prayer.
Our prayer exercises for each week following the class will be first praying for the ways we see God moving and speaking in the world. Later, we will discuss the ways we see God speaking through our neighbor and through our own lives.
The blanks are there because each of us hears and experiences God’s voice in different ways. On August 7, we talked about different ways that we can be present to God. One of the great questions that came up is “What does it mean to be ‘present’ to God?”
Growing up, my Grandpa Whitley loved to sit on his porch and look out over his fields. There was no conversation. Being present to God is a way of being quiet and listening.
One of the major things we all need to remember is that prayer is more about listening, and less about talking. We can only HEAR GOD if we stop our chattering and our demands.
The first step is to find a place where you can be alone and silent. For me, this now means I must find a place where my dog won’t follow me. It can be in your car in the morning on the way to work. There are many ways to be present.
Like any type of discipline, it takes time, patience, and gentleness to begin a new practice. If you have not found quiet time for yourself in a long time, it will be hard to quiet your mind in order to listen. Don’t give up, simply and calmly state to yourself “thinking” and forgive yourself. Then quiet again. Start with 5-10 minutes in the beginning. As you grow in practice, you will find yourself longing to be present to the silence.
1Kings 19:11-12 RSV
11 And he said, “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.