Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Walking by Faith OR My Steps are So Carefully Ordered

My prayer life has been changing radically in the last few months. At almost an exponential rate I have been catapulted into a very different experience of prayer and I feel so off balance at times because I am not sure where it fits into my devotional life.

Should I abandon all the old forms of prayer and simply use this new deeper form of prayer always? Should I trust that this prayer is actually from God and not just assume that I am decieving myself because this prayer takes almost no effort on my part? How do I gain the most fruit from this new type of prayer? . . . These are the questions that swim around in my rational mind almost every day now that I am living in this new reality of prayer.

So then, God sent me a day like yesterday.

I was rushing to get to my internship in Indianapolis, and was going to be getting there without a moment to spare, but there was an overturned semi in the median of the highway, so trafic was at a standstill at one point and I was stopped. The consequence was I arrived five minutes late and class had already begun.

The session was on the Art of Holy Listening, and Sr. Wanda was leading the opening prayer when I walked in. I assumed that she was leading a guided meditation from her tone and the words she was using, so I hurried to my seat and tried to engage as quickly as possible in the prayer. My mind was still racing, and I was wondering if I was doing what I was supposed to be doing when I got a clear message from God that I didn't need to "do" anything I just needed to "be". After that I became very calm and let out a breath and totally relaxed into a very peaceful space. At that moment Sr. Wanda played a song which was a reflection on the verse from the bible that says "Be still and know that I am God" !

After the song, Sr Wanda asked us all to write in our journals a phrase or sentance that captured how we felt about our prayer experience. Without thinking at all I wrote "human beings, not human doings" . Then class began.

At the end of class, (a very full class on the art of listening well) we were given a chance to use the tools we had just learned in a spiritual direction setting. We broke into groups of three, and did an exercise where one of us was the director, one the directee and one was a compassionate observer. (every five minutes we switched roles till everyone had had a chance to be each). When it was my turn to be the directee I talked about my experience at prayer that morning, and how that type of wordless prayer is so much more effective for me than any rote prayers that I say and how in my prayer life I am finding that using time for this type of "being with God is usurping all of my prayer time. I was wondering (to the director) if I needed to balance the two? In five minutes we didn't nearly have time to work it out, but I said that I would probably take that question to my Spiritual Director when I saw him in October since it had been on my heart for so long.

Later that day I had picked up a book to do some casual reading because I was staying over in Indianapolis with mrangelmeg who is there for a class and he wasn't going to get out of his class for a few hours after my class was over. When I was packing for the trip I had tossed in a book that I had purchased a few weeks back that was written by one of my favorite authors. I bought it without really looking at what it was about, knowing that whatever it was I would like it because I have enjoyed all of his other books.

I took the book out of my bag to kill some time while I was waiting for mrangelmeg's class to get over and what should it be about do you suppose? What to do when one"s prayer life begins to go beyond the early stages and into a deeper more intimate form of prayer. It is called When the Well Runs Dry by Thomas Green SJ. Coincidence? I should think not!!!

So, I spent the next hour (and later that night. and some more this morning while mrangelmeg was sleeping in) reading about exactly where I am in my prayer life and being affirmed by one of my favorite Jesuit authors that I am not alone, and that he will be my guide as I begin to navigate this new country and make it my own. So far, I have read nearly 100 pages of this book, it is so compelling to me probably because I am reading it right when I need to be reading it, not a moment too soon.

How amazing that just when I need it I happen to purchase this book not because of the content but because of the author, and just when I am at a crisis point in this new land of prayer of all the books in my pile of bookss I want to read some day I happen to throw that particular one into my bag to take along for my overnight stay after this particular class when I have a deeply moving prayer experience and it wells up in me many questions about this place I am entering in my prayer life and what I should or shouldn't be doing here.

It just goes to show how carefully God orders my steps.

God is good, all the time.


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