“Religion has lost sight of Jesus’ message…We aren’t focused on the great mystery. Rather religion has tended to create people who think they have God in their pockets, people with quick, easy glib answers. That is why so much of the West is understandably abandoning religion. People know the great mystery cannot be that simple and facile. If the great mystery is indeed the Great Mystery, it will lead us into paradox, into darkness, and into journeys that never cease. That is what prayer is about.”
~ Fr. Richard Rohr (a Jesuit Priest)
One of the wonderful things about prayer is that it isn’t predictable. It is delving into the the ultimate unknown, but never is it unknowable.
I use to, and have to admit sometimes still do, get irritated that many people view prayer as either place to recite their wishes and requests as though God were their private genie, or they just recite already written and memorized prayers as though recitation of such incantations will somehow grant favor from an Omnipotent Being.
Now, obviously I’m writing from my own Christian belief, and those who follow me know I am very open to other traditions, but in this I’m writing about prayer as seen from the Western traditions.
Prayer is meant to be an opportunity to explore, to learn, and to grow under the guidance of the Creator. It is not about words or thoughts, but about relationship. Each of us already has a piece of the Presence of God within us, our very life as we know it is testament to this, and prayer is one medium we have to bring us into deeper communion with the Giver of Life.
It is true, and I have written about the beauty of silence, and the opening of the majestic during my time in such prayer as I write about here, but that is just one part of it. Prayer also leads us through darkness, through things we struggle to and often don’t understand. A Master that never confronts us with something new and difficult will never take us anywhere we have never been or never known before. I have often had periods of prayer that felt as though I traversed a desert, a place without water, a place where I felt no comfort, and these are usually times when I am forced to learn something I would rather not learn at the moment, confronted with something in life that doesn’t make sense, or times of great anguish. Yes, I find my way, and I’ve been involved in prayer enough to know, that I must keep walking/praying during such times even though it is difficult because the answer is in me already, I just have to be patient and be open to it when I find it.
I have the rare privilege of having actually been lost in a desert once. I wandered without food or water for two days and during the near freezing temps at night I had to keep walking or lay down and die of hypothermia. I could write much on that, but I only mention it because I remember that often when I feel lost and alone and the way out seems so confusing. I just keep going…if I fall down, I get back up. Eventually, I expect to be led out, and I always am, with hard lessons having been learned, if not I go through it again.
Prayer should confront us with problems, turmoils, and darkness, because we are suppose to grow in our relationship, and it should be a reminder when we do find this after accustomed to the bliss of the other extreme that we aren’t seen as babes anymore in the eyes of the All-Knowing but as young adults, ready to enter into a more mature relationship with our Father.