Friday, October 10, 2008

What is Prayer?

Once the morning fog lifted yesterday, it turned into a beautiful day. My company gave everyone in my building a free lunch so after getting my plate of food I headed outdoors to quietly sit in the sun and eat a solitary meal. I wasn't being unsociable. The moment was unplanned and spontaneous. As you can imagine feeding a couple of thousand people is a monumental task. However, it all went very well. The food was tasty, the lines moved quickly, and everything was managed well. The only challenge was getting back up to the 11th floor. We have a computerized elevator system that must have been on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Although I walk down all eleven flights of stairs several times a day, I can't walk up eleven flights easily. When I reach the 4th floor, the heavy breathing starts. Around the 5th floor I think I am having a heart attack. When I reach the 6th floor I sit down and dial 911 so emergency medical services can come and treat me for the pain in my chest and the uncontrollable shaking of my legs. All right, I'm kidding! Well, not completely. What I actually did was walk over to the adjoining building and take the elevator to the 6th floor. When I got there I took the crosswalk to the 5th floor of my building. I then climbed three flights of stairs and caught an elevator for the last three flights. It was quite an adventure. Shortly after returning to my home on the 11th floor I had the realization that I needed to go back downstairs to take my turn serving the masses!

My son, Nick, is home from the seminary for a long weekend. Besides a family trip to pumpkinland tomorrow, my son, wife, and I will have a TV marathon sometime over the weekend to watch the complete Season Four of "The Office".

Now for a few serious thoughts.....

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. 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 and 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". The hardest thing about any of this is making yourself take the time to sit still and be quiet. It's tough to do in our busy lives. However, if you can add this discipline to your life, you will eventually get to the point where you really miss it if you can't do it. I admit that I struggle doing this myself. I am often undisciplined, weary, or just plain lazy.

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