Monday, October 29, 2007

What Is Prayer?

It was a glorious, autumn weekend. The days were clear, sunny, and cool. The leaves are finally starting to show some color. The nights have been cold and this morning many saw their first frost of the season. The month of October is rapidly coming to a close. Much of my weekend was spend alone. My wife had family obligations. Her Sunday afternoon was spent at a wedding shower. Wedding showers, or any kind of a "shower" for that matter, makes me glad to be a man. This is my last weekend without obligations for a while. Next weekend I will be attending a meeting at the monastery involving folks from all over the USA. Soon after that is a family trip and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. At this time of year life is on fast forward. Halloween is this Wednesday. After that it's a roller coaster ride until January.

What is prayer? Most people would answer that prayer is talking to God. This is correct but it is not the entire answer. There are many kinds of prayer. Prayer as talking to God may be the most common form of prayer. Contemplative prayer, however, is more about listening to God. Instead of going to God with a laundry list of needs, one simply sits before God and says, "Here I am, Lord!" Contemplative prayer is more about listening and waiting than talking. It is sitting before God as an empty cup waiting to be filled. Too often we go before God as an empty cup with our wish list of what we want God to put into our cup. In contemplative prayer we sit and wait and offer our emptiness to God. We let God choose how we are best to be filled. In Psalm 42, we hear, "Be still and know that I am God". If you want to pray in a more contemplative way, find a quiet spot and simply sit. Be silent and still. Wait for God and he will come to you. Do this a couple of times a day, preferably before you start your daily work and again when your work is done. Twenty minutes each time is a good start. Be silent, be still, and breathe. There is a famous story about a priest who, every time he goes into his church, sees an old man sitting looking towards the tabernacle. Finally, after seeing the old man many times, the priest asks him, "What are you doing"? The old man said. "I look at Him and He looks at me". The famous mystic Meister Eckhart said, "The eye with which we look at God is the same eye with which God looks at us".

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