Wednesday, July 16, 2008

ancient prayer revisited, part 2

continuing our theme of ancient prayer:

how is your prayer life? quite an intimate question, i suppose. 

the answer to this depends upon how you define prayer? if it's prayer as step 1, step 2, step 3 then this is the main culprit to our struggle. if we could ever move beyond these type formulas we were taught, and thereby move to a prayer-definition of some depth, i believe that significant growth could be accomplished in our spiritual formation.

i would define prayer as anything we do to clear space in our lives so we can focus on the lord. by this definition reading the psalms, listening to music, or just sitting in quietness is prayer.

many today are moving toward a monastic form of ancient prayer called the liturgy of the hours. this is a prayer pattern based upon the hebrew habit of praying several times a day. coming from the desert fathers and mothers (go here & here), the monastic calling included a prayer-reading of the psalms which became part of what is known as a rule

now let me say, before we unpack the idea of a rule or anything else, in order to begin to learn to pray in this ancient way several transitions must be accomplished:
  • one must transition from fear to openness toward the other macro versions of christianity (i.e catholicism and and eastern orthodoxy). we need not convert to see that there is a depth to the spirituality there displayed that we cannot begin to approach from our teachers
  • one must transition from "prayer on the go" to a considered and set time(s) for prayer. i know of know other way to practice this ancient prayer, other than giving the lord your time and attention (i.e. focus). in short, for example, what is in view here cannot really be practiced behind the wheel of a moving car
  • one must transition to a long term understanding of prayer (i.e prayer as partnership and relationship) instead of prayer for stuff, things and safety for us our kin and our way of life. that is, ancient prayer will ultimately lead one to what the old-timers call renunciation, which may best be typified by john the baptist's statement in john 3: "he must increase and i must decrease," or jesus' statement in the sermon on the mount: "seek ye first the kingdom..."
  • one must transition from a success mentality ("i prayed an hour today") to the dirt (humas) of humility.  ancient prayer will open to you as nothing else can both the depth of your self-will (which, after all is the definition of sin), and the greater depth of divine love, acceptance and forgiveness
  • finally, one must transition from the desire for things from God to desiring the presence of God
more later