Art & Practice of Prayer - Prayer as the Gift of Presence
The Art and Practice of Prayer PRAYER AS THE GIFT OF PRESENCE
Why do we pray? Is it to get something that we want? What if our desires deceive us, and our true longing is for something deeper, something more profound? Rich Rohr starts our conversation on prayer by talking about the “gift of the Holy Spirit.” For Rohr, this is the answer to the question, “Does God hear us?” Is this answer enough?
Questions for Reflection
1. Rohr responds to the question, “Does God hear our cries?” by saying that “I have to believe that God is present to them—no, that’s hearing them. God cares about them, but the evidence is not that God is not a problem solver, that God rushes in to do what we, very often out of our false self, ask God to do.” What do we mean when we say, “God hears,” or “God listens”? Do we mean that God is someone who fixes our problems? How is this perspective a reduction of who God is?
2. Rohr quotes from Luke (11:13) and says that “...the answer to every prayer is the same: “the gift of the Holy Spirit.” This gift might not be in fantastical acts of healing, but it is in “an influx of Spirit.” What does it mean to have “the gift of the Holy Spirit”? How does this perspective make a difference?
3. This way of thinking about prayer requires “maturity” says Rohr, “The ego likes to live in a functional tit-for-tat, problem solving, type of world. Often some people don’t find that answer satisfying.”1 What prevents us from maturing to see prayer in the way in which Rohr is describing? How can this answer become “satisfying”? Why is this answer not “satisfying” to some people?
4. The ego often makes a “knee jerk” reaction to the unsatisfying idea of the “Gift of the Holy Spirit.” How long will it take to “be with” this idea? Rohr responds, “To stay with it is to hold itsproblems, to hold its contradictions, that may be five weeks. It may be five months, or five minutes.” This is kind of reaction is like a child not getting what she wants. What indicators are going on in our lives that show us that we need some maturity? How can we “hold on” to this idea and embrace it as something life giving rather than life taking?
5. Rohr talks about living in a “strobe like culture where we don’t give ourselves time to surrender.” Our culture bombards us with sights and sounds that distract. We become too preoccupied to surrender to God’s presence. What might surrender look like to you? How might we practice surrender?
6. Rohr describes surrender as a “dance of love.” What might this dance require from us?
7. Rohr ends the conversation by talking about the relationship between loosing and finding. What might we gain from the surrender that takes place in this “dance of love?”
Practices of Presence One way that we can learn to receive the “gift of the Holy Spirit” is through practices that invoke God’s presence, rather than expecting to “hear” from God in ways in which we expect. These practices might come in the form of turning off electronic devices in the evening and finding time with a good book or in with peaceful music. It could be a walk in the park by one’s self, taking time to notice surprises of nature.
Set aside time this week to enter into divine presence. Simply start by taking a few deep breaths and being quiet. For thirty minutes, learn to enjoy solitude. Close your eyes, not to sleep, but to draw in God’s breath. After you can do this alone and at home. Spend some time without the radio on in the car. Learn to eat lunch in quiet, without the distraction of television. Listen and let yourself feel.
Suggested Reading Brother Lawrence, Practicing the Presence of God Richard Rohr, Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation See “The Serenity Prayer” on TWOTP Phuc Luu
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