Tuesday, September 04, 2007

When one cannot pray at least read about prayer

Continuing to read, slowly, "Listening for God" by Renita Weems, she says something to the effect of, when on cannot pray, at least read about prayer. One of my laments over the last two years is my inability to pray. Oh sure, I've railed, lamented, yelled, cried - all forms of communication with God. some of my attempts have found their voice in poetry: More Praying. That is me attempting to communicate with God. On my end, God has been as silent as a hot summer night with no wind, when even the crickets are quiet. Weems likens these times when God is silent and when God is very present as "seasons." I have used that same imagery, aware that like all seasons this one will pass. What makes this book particularly helpful is how she voices what it is like to be a minister, called to bring the Good News to people, and be this one struggling in the silence. She says: "TO admit that in the spiritual journey, highs are brief, sporadic and rare and that the human heart experiences far longer periods of dullness, emptiness, and silence can be threatening....what is there to look forward to, if all we can expect is to stumble in the dark? To admit that it's all a stumble seems like an admission of failure - and Protestant ministers have a particularly difficult time admitting their defeats. Blame it on...our works-righteousness...being told that if prayers are met with silence, then the fault lay with...ourselves. Or blame it on the hardy dosage of homilies we've endured (and have given) that have insisted upon viewing God as readily available...When this is your spiritual legacy, it's difficult to admit aloud to feeling adrift. It's even more difficult to admit to the times when praying feels like a hollow ritual and the closest you can bring yourself to praying is to read about prayer."

"The truth is that this journey is best characterizes as periods of ecstasy and periods of melancholy; seasons when I can feel the presence of the sacred in my life and seasons when the perception and even the memory of the sacred have all but evaporated from the soul; moments of deep, abiding faith and moments of quiet despair; times of calm and times of clutter; moments when prayer is music and moments when I cannot abide the sound of prayer. Stumbling, staggering, slouching, and crawling forward is not the whole story, to be sure. But stumbling, staggering, slouching, and crawling feel as though they've been the largest part of my journey..."

Weems has such a wonderful way of describing how I have experienced these last few years of my life. I am grateful to have found someone so adept with language and imagery to help me articulate this season. She reminds me to continue doing what I am doing and have been doing. Get up every morning and keep doing. Go about my life preparing sermons and liturgy, caring for people in my family and my congregation, investing time in the refugee ministry I've begun, read books and poetry. In other words just keep going.

I have a card that reads: "When you're going through hell, just keep going." Somewhere in all of this I will see and know God again. Some day the season will change, the darkness will lift, and I will know God in a new way. I am living in the mean time. Not exactly the depth lost and darkness because at least now I have hope again.

10 comments:

RevDrKate said...

Having hope is a very powerful thing, especially when you have been "Stumbling, staggering, slouching, and crawling forward" without it for so long.I read your posts as a testament of faith "in things unseen." That you can and have gone on doing what you are called to do in the face of this affective void is powerful witness to us all.

Mary Beth said...

You remain in my prayers!

And here are your questions!

1) How did you become an Episcopalian?

2) What was the most important thing you learned from your refugee visitors?

3) What book or movie has changed or shaped your life most profoundly (besides The Bible)

4) What was your favorite pastime as a child?

5) Where would you go for your dream vacation? Money no object.

Have fun! :)

Diane said...

can't wait to read your answers to Mary Beth's questions.
I'm loving your reflections from Weems' book.
I'm thinking about prayer in my own life, times when it seems like I actually wasn't praying at all, or even trying, and then if I tried to get my husband to pray with me (me out loud) (this is rare and only during crisis) he cries.
I think I've often "read about God/prayer" when I didn't feel close in other ways..

mompriest said...

OK, Mary Beth, I'll let you know when I play. Maybe later tonight or tomorrow for sure. Looking forward to it!

mompriest said...

revdrkate, I am hopeful because I can see a little light at the end of the tunnel...and well, I just feel a little better. It's not that much has changed, really, but I feel better...so, we'll see.

and diane I've never been able to get my husband to pray with me, although he does...praying together, except at dinner, has not been one of our spiritual practices...which feels odd to me, but is true nonetheless...

Gannet Girl said...

I have come to understand prayer as attending to God -- it sounds to me as if you are doing a tremendous amount of praying!

Songbird said...

You are in my prayers tonight, mompriest.

Serena said...

I love how Gannet Girl said it ... and agree with RevDrKate ... your witness is a blessing to all of us. Looking forward to reading your answers to the questions ... and praying for the light to continue to get brigher every day.

Katherine E. said...

"a glimpse of hope again." Oh, I'm smiling, mompriest.

"Powerful witness" yes indeed--I'm with Kate and the others on that. Thanks for posting.

RevErikaG said...

Thanks for sharing something so authentic...

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