This year I have started out trying to live all my waking moments in conscious listening to the inner voice, asking without ceasing, “What, Father, do you desire said? What, Father, do you desire done this minute?”Frank Laubach, Letters by a Modern Mystic (p. 4)
It is clear that this is what Jesus was doing all day every day. But it is not what his followers have been doing in very large numbers.
What shall I do? What is the best thing to do? How shall I make best use of my time? These are perennial human questions.
I was lost – tired, overwhelmed, and angry. A wise woman once said to me that underneath anger is hurt or fear. I felt hurt. And frightened.
I s(k)ulk through the night.
In the early morning, I leave resentment on the other side of the door. I find a way back to myself. I become my breath, become this body, become, by and by, the sensation of being alive.
Too often prayer is presented as petition.
But the word ‘prayer’ is simply religious jargon for relationship with what we call God.
In truth, there are only three prayers.
Prayer is properly not petition, but simply attention to God which is a form of love.Iris Murdoch, On ‘God’ and ‘Good’ in Existentialists And Mystics
1. “Here I am.”
Inevitably, when I sit and pray in the morning I wish for a new, improved me. I lack kindness to myself. I try to think my way into becoming better. I try to think about how to sort out my life. I try to think about what to do. But thinking is not prayer.
Presence is prayer.
“Where is God in all this?”
I am running a training day for spiritual directors entitled, “Where is God in all this?” It is being hosted at the London Centre for Spiritual Direction, as part of their Developing Direction programme.
Here is the blurb:
“Where is God in all this?” is a question much-beloved of spiritual directors. However, if God is “in all things” then this question makes no sense. What is the purpose of this question? What are we really asking? What are better ways of addressing this? These questions get right to the heart of what spiritual direction is and what makes it different from other listening disciplines. This day will explore how we we might ask about God with those who come to talk with us.
The God we seek is here. As spiritual directors, our craft is to live this. On this day we will pray together, explore our notions of God, play with our craft, and seek courage to practise Presence.
[See Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, inter-mission, & 5]
It’s about an authority that emerges from yielding not to an alien will but an affirming source … [We] are empowered, emancipated, to use the transforming energy we can exercise by acknowledging our dependence upon an unconditional source of affirmation.Rowan Williams: Being Human, pp. 72–3
Spiritual direction relocates authority from out there to in here.
[See Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, & inter-mission]
Our human identity therefore becomes one in which we both acknowledge in prayer this dependence [upon God] and respond to the gift that sets up not only our being but our renewed being in Christ; and in acknowledging that dependence we are empowered to ‘do the work of God’.Rowan Williams: Being Human, p.72
“I want to know what God wants me to do with my life.”
People often seek spiritual direction with this question uppermost in their minds. Spiritual direction is the right place to ask this question. Spiritual directors have training in discernment, and it is a question we ask ourselves frequently. My contention is that this is not the right place to start.
[See Parts 1, 2, 3, & 4]
If people destroy something irreplaceable made by mankind, they are called vandals; if they destroy something irreplaceable make by God they are called developers.Joseph Wood Krutch (quoted in David R Loy, Ecodharma: Buddhist Teachings for the Ecological Crisis, p. 16)
You may be wondering why I am banging on about this at such length. Why does it matter that God is “not an alien will but an affirming source”?
[See Parts 1, 2, & 3]
When God is “an alien will” I may feel the pressure to make amends for the mistakes of the past and to work towards an improved self in the future. When God is an alien will there is a to-do list.
[See Part 1& Part 2]
… yielding …
When we are freed from the idea of God as “an alien will” we can fall back into an utterly relaxing Presence that is our “affirming source”. The alien will is jealous and requires attention and conformity to an arbitrary set of standards. The affirming source is not alien, not demanding, not jealous because we are what it is. We do not have to do anything to earn this. We do not have to work for it. There is no rivalry.
… yielding not to an alien will but an affirming source …
The trouble with an alien will is that it is … alien, other. How can I know, respond to, and, in time, love something that is so far from and other than me? I will look outside myself, beyond this life, to another realm to know who to be and what to do. Then I am separated, as it were, from myself. Separation slips into anxiety: What is required of me to be acceptable, good enough, holy enough for God? How can I be more like God? I am in a catch-22 situation because I can never know the answers to these questions if God is alien.