Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Praying A New World Into Being

To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.
Thomas Merton
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Prayer is a pilgrimage into the deepest recesses of our being. It is being attentive to God's active presence both with us and within us. The 15th century Indian contemplative Kabir wrote that "God is the breath inside the breath." The Apostle Paul quoted the philosopher Epimenides as he sermonized the Athenians: "For in him we live and move and have our being." God is that energy and power and inspiration that we draw upon to live and thrive.
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Prayer is the intentional practice of actively marinating in the Love that holds the universe together: the Love defined by the unique blend of Divine compassion, forgiveness and suffering service culminating on the cross of Jesus. This Love is at the very core of our being because that is where God resides. Prayer beckons this Love into our daily lives. Deep breaths in solitude and silence remind us that Love fills our lungs and our life, not only sustaining ourselves but exhaling into subversive acts of compassion, forgiveness and suffering service to others.
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Prayer is visualing a whole New World where greed, hatred and suffering no longer exist. This is what Jesus did when he woke up before dawn and left the house to find a solitary place (Mark 1:35) and it is what he did when he craved solitude to discern God's Will in the final hours before his arrest and execution (Mark 14:36: nonviolent resistance requires clear vision & immense strength of purpose). Like the world-class athlete who stills her body and mind to proactively imagine the upcoming match, pioneers of the New World mindfully cultivate a strategic and creative gameplan. In order to do ordinary things differently, we think through our upcoming day, infusing it with generosity, forgiveness and a disciplined simplicity that transcends corporate consumerism. The New World doesn't just happen. It's not about passively waiting for God's miracle to come. It's about pledging allegiance to the New World and living it into reality.
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Prayer is a pause to take inventory of the addictive patterns that autopilot us. My workaholism and achievement orientation keep me from breathing in the Love that fosters growth and nourishment. When I bind my anxiety and the chaos of life by overfunctioning or caretaking or obsessing over the approval of mere acquaintances, I spiral into a netherworld of dehumanization. I become less than the man I was created to be. The pain and woundedness of my past are too haunting to face...so I repress them with a trip to the used bookstore or the gym. Prayer is a subversive tactic that allows me to sit with my (real) feelings and refuse to counterfeit myself with trifles.
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Prayer is actively pledging solidarity with the wretched of the earth. It is the act of opening our eyes and our hearts wide to the suffering and oppression of the rest of humanity. Prayer is ecological not egological. It enfolds narcissism and indifference and apathy into a passion for turning the world upside down with the Love that created it and remains at the very center of it. This empathy breathes in a hope that will turn weeping into dancing and ensure that the meek will inherit the earth.
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Prayer is an expression of gratitude for food, work, relationship, play and justice. It is the sincere overflowing of joy for what Life has bestowed upon us. It is the realization that millions in our world work harder and love better than we do, yet do not have 1/10 of the freedom or resources that we possess. Prayer is the act of groaning for a New World to emerge: one that brings hope and healing and happiness to every living creature.
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Prayer is a stone thrown into a still pond. It is the ripple effect of Love into a world yearning for healing and redemption. It is yeast...the mustard seed...the light. It is the flap of a butterfly's wings on one continent that can change the weather on another.
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*This is Part 1 of a 4-post series called Tangible Theology, an attempt to re-position our bold-yet-humble thoughts about God where they belong: smack dab in the center of our everyday lives. These posts reflect honest conversations I've had with friends who have sincere questions and doubts about the trajectory of their faith and spirituality. Over the next few weeks, I will tackle the vital, mysterious concepts of Prayer, The Multiplicity of Faiths, Sexual Orientation and the Scandalous Resurrection of God.

I am absolutely convinced that theology should always be a series of dialogues, never a system of pronouncements. None of these ideas are original, but a result of thousands of hours of conversation and study. I invite you to read and respond. On its best days, this spiritual journey has been about transformation, not information. An ever-changing life, not a head full of knowledge.

2 comments:

  1. Wow... I am LOVING this conversation...great post and intriguing trajectory of writing you are going on, my love. Thank you for these life-giving thoughts, and even moreso, for the transformative journey you are going on that makes me the recipient of Life and Love in all its fullness.

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