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Just off the Port Bow—a place of uncertainty, adventure, and insight. Thank you for your ears, eyes and hearts. I hope to bring compassion, grace and beauty to your day.

The End of Prayer...as I have known it.

On a certain day, about three years ago, I stopped praying. I put this in dramatic language, because it was a dramatic moment. There is the danger that such drama might lead some to think that I have lost faith, or given up the "faith once delivered". Nothing could be farther from the truth. I am possibly more aware of faith than I have been all my life...I am certainly more aware.

In March of 2011 I ran into a spiritual wall. I sought help, willing to do whatever was needed to do to peel myself (or be peeled) off of this wall. There were any number of presenting issues, but just three central ones.

1. My brain was a maelstrom of active conversations, looped event tapes and other noises.
2. Everything I said or did existed under a cloud of LAW.
3. Spiritual practices I had nurtured for nearly 50 years kept me pinned to that damn wall; they were not helping me on any level. Prayer was foremost of these practices.

I was steered right away in the direction of mindfulness. I'll say more about this in my next blog post. Learning meditation was a part of the drill. So was learning to accept myself.

Oddly enough the cutting of the prayer cord was not difficult. On the day I began meditating, I stopped praying. It was that simple. I put down one walking stick and picked up another. And I kept walking.

Slowly, the maelstrom has been losing its intensity. This is not to say that life has become less intense; just my sensitivity to its volume.

And, I am learning a new medium of communion with God. This is saying too much, as I wish to avoid any hint of a religious "form". I am starting all over; cleaning a dusty slate of its accretions, and carelessly trying out new (to me) chalks.

God hasn't changed, nor has my communion with God. The babe in the woods is still there; the bath tub and its murky water have been thrown out.


* * * * *

A quick note on prayer, as I have understood it, and experienced it.

On a purely human level prayer is the ordering of words in one's mind; words which will either be silently or verbally spoken. Prayer, thus defined, is constrained by language, and strains, by form, the ordering of its expression.

The Bible is filled with all manner of prayer: petition, praise, confession, thanksgiving, and curse. All of it resides in a great body of Law. Grace does shine through here and there. Honesty finds expression in David's heart bursts. Yet, Law constrains and strains much of what we read as Biblical prayer.

Jesus, when pressed by his disciples, enjoined them to pray simply the "Our Father". He, himself, went off into the hills surrounding Kinneret to commune with His Father. We don't know what form this took. The only glimpse we get of his prayer life is in Gethsemane, in extremis.

My childhood prayer consisted of "Now I lay me down to sleep....." and "Our Father....". From as early as I can remember these two prayers defined the end of every day. It was in boarding school that the elegant prayers of Thomas Cranmer entered my heart and mind, and added new forms to my childhood practice. Then, in college, quickened with a "converted" new faith, I began to copy and craft new forms of prayer...constrained by new edges of belief and straining my childhood simplicities.

My experience of prayer has not been all negative; not at all. The power of prayer in pastoral settings is undeniable. The beauty of thoughtfully formed prayer in liturgy is...beyond words. The heart cry of prayer rushing heavenward in worship is moving.

Still, as I was stuck to that Wall, none of it availed. It was all constrained and strained words.

So, I needed to let it all go, and was able to do so for just one reason: I was sure that God would not let me go.

And, that's where I am right now...and where He has always been.



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