Here’s where my mind goes when I try to pray in a contemplative manner: ALL OVER! I waltz around the world of my thought life in records speeds when I’m meant to be still, then suddenly I’m having a panic attack over the threat of ISIS, or whether or not I closed the garage door. As I continue to try and reign myself in and pray I usually end up in the same place having the same internal debate over why this silence and solitude study matters, and really why long drawn out prayer matters, and sometimes why prayer at all matters.
I’ve read a lot of the contemplatives and at the risk of wildly offending a highly influential and spiritual theology and people, I think the way they pray comes across narcissistic sometimes. They’re on one huge quest to ‘feel’ God. A lot of these people left all the comforts of society to pursue righteousness, and whatever you think about that, it’s most likely not selfish. Of course it begs the question, is righteousness for righteousness sake any good, but that’s for another time and someone smarter.
When I think about the essence of Christianity I really think we’re supposed to be doing something. More and more I believe health is defined not by how much we feel God but by how active we are in the mission of God. I understand that people say that to pray and be present with God is the foundational motivation and inspiration for service, but I don’t always see that played out. The most highly sensational and experiential churches with claims to countless miracles are no less impactful in the greater mission of God than the conservative Baptists down the street. If people were really experiencing these hits of spiritual ecstasy, which is meant to lead into a life action these churches would be changing the whole damn world.
For me, the motivation is belief in the Divine, and out of that an innate compassion for others and a lot of conviction about what we’re supposed to be doing. For those of us who don’t have the luxury of a supposed relational intimacy with God, we too are compelled by the call to be Christians, compelled maybe not by intimacy but by love of others, a faith in God, and our call. Who knows, maybe what I’m experiencing is the very Spirit of God at work and my definition is far too narrow.
I watch people who pray like God is their best friend and at its worst people pray because they want God to do all these things for them. It’s almost always self-focused - heal me, fix that, I want to feel you, make me feel loooooved. Very rarely is it prayer that motivates people into service, or deep emotional prayer on behalf of a broken world.
If the point of prayer is that we change right, are we changing? All we do is meant to make us into something, God makes us whole so we might participate in His work in the world. We experience Him because it changes us and make us usable. I understand that it’s all intertwined, what I don’t get is what cognitively staring at God all day does for anyone, except maybe putting me in my proper place.
So, I read the book of common prayer, I read the psalms, I sit around and wait for I don’t know what. If I really believe God is everywhere what’s the point of hashing it out in conversation style, I don’t really like re-telling stories to people who were there.
I’m just being negative, and I’m pretty sure I’m contradicting myself, and clearly not a theologian. Maybe I’m just mad that I haven’t experienced whatever the ‘Jesus is my friend’ thing is, or I’m defensive because this is outside of my comfort zone. I don’t know, I’m working on it though. I have all these questions about it, but I’m praying like there is a relationship to be had and I can’t tell if it’s disingenuous or if it’s faith.