Hope: A Spiritual Discipline

As a person who can look at a situation and acknowledge the hard things and who is not afraid to stand with pain and suffering, I can also easily despair. I know we need hope. It is life-giving. In Waging Peace: Discipline and Practice (Pendle Hill Pamphlet #420), Pamela Haines names practices for learning to live transformed for peace, and the discipline of hope is the first she mentions. What is the kind of hope that brings life and possibility?

The book of Jeremiah in the Hebrew scriptures talks about false prophets who cry “Peace, peace” when there is no peace. Hope not based in reality is not hope. Neither is it wishful thinking or simply expectation of what I want to happen. True hope is based on what we know or have experienced, and it is hope in what we cannot now see. We may not even be able to imagine it. Yet we have reasons to hold onto its possibility and to live toward that.

We may, for example, hope for the healing of a friend’s incurable disease. How can our hearts not desire that?! Yet if our hope is merely to get what we want, we will likely be disappointed or disillusioned.   Hope that is true hope is in a larger definition of what healing is, a larger vision of what is possible–a hope that is based on an awareness of the vastness of God’s goodness and the depth of God’s love. Healing can be a cure, but it can also be presence, comfort, tending, and bringing wholeness that extends into the world and beyond.

Our task is to learn to look for and to see the signs of hope. That may take opening our hearts to the One who makes all things new. It may also take learning to notice what we can be thankful for even in the midst of troubles.   Pamela says we need to develop the muscle of hope.

Queries:

What is your experience with hope?

What would it take to increase your hopefulness?

Prayer:

Hope is a prayer because it connects you with the Divine. Find a way to practice hope.

For further reflection:

“They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” (See Jeremiah 8: 8-11).

“Sing and rejoice, you children of the Day and of the Light. For the Lord God is at work in this thick night of darkness that may be felt.” (George Fox, Epistle 227, 1663).

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Hands-On Prayer

As a chaplain I attended Quakers in Pastoral Care and Counseling (QPCC). We were divided into small groups for sharing about our work situations. At the end of those sessions we prayed for one another, putting one person at a time in the center of the group. That person shared specific joys, concerns, and hopes. The other group members gathered around the person, touching the person (being sensitive to what was comfortable for the focus person and the pray-ers) and praying for her or him aloud and silently. I left those sessions feeling encouraged, supported, and grounded in God.

In another small group of which I am currently a part, we used this practice in praying for persons in the group. Although we had earlier acknowledged questions and qualms about intercessory prayer, the impact of this intercessory praying was palpable and powerful. Love and care, compassion and a sense of oneness literally coursed through our bodies. I would have to say that the bond we sensed between us was more than a human connection. And I feel confident that the experience meant as much to those who prayed as to those who were prayed for. We were all touched by the presence and love of God.

Obviously the focus person can share a need for his or her own healing. But the person can also carry a concern for someone else’s healing and be the vehicle for prayers for that other person. And this prayer is a great way for sending a person off on a mission or back into the workplace and ordinary life, an occasion of thanksgiving and blessing. What is required for this kind of praying is simple, and hard—being willing to be vulnerable with one another and with God.

Queries:

How have you felt God’s touch in your life? If God touched you, would you notice?

How do you find the loving line between sensitivity to the wounds people have suffered from being hurtfully touched and extending a physical expression of God’s love?

Prayer:

Find a way to express God’s love in a tangible way, or notice how someone else has given that gift to you.

For further reflection:

“Some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.” (See Mark 8: 22-26.)

“Mind that which is eternal, which gathers your hearts together up to the Lord, and lets you see that ye are written in one another’s heart.” George Fox (Epistle 24, 1653)