The Path

I grew up with a hunger for God, a love of Jesus, whether I really understood that or not.  Early on it was manifested in being drawn to Bible stories and other stories of people of faith.  Those stories were somewhat enfleshed by the weekly experience of having people invited to “give their lives to Christ” and join the church.  I myself made that decision by age ten.

What I didn’t hear much about then was that I was stepping on a path that would give me a chance to grow, change, and become closer to God, enriching my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined.  But when the ups and downs of my faith and life set me in Quakerism as a young woman, I was inspired by older Friends, especially women, who seemed to glow.  They had something that inwardly I yearned for.   Their witness invited me to take hold of a path, a way of life—familiar, I now know, in Quakerism and in Christianity—that I then scarcely knew consciously.

This path is not like a trail that one can knowingly follow, nor is it about achieving a destination or status.  It does involve making a life-choice, and then is more about surrendering or letting go in faith. Each one’s journey is different. Trusting and doubting and wondering, seeking and finding and losing, suffering and knowing joy, making wrong turns and finding a way provided when there is no way—all are included.  It’s an ascent that involves deepening.

Friends’ directions for following this path have been to live up to the Light that you have and more will be granted you.  It calls for holding onto a tradition—what others have come to know in the past and have left a witness to—while at the same time living in the present with what you know and experience.

Queries:

What kind of life-choice have you made?

How do you, or can you, reject harmful or unbelievable notions you learned in your past religious experience while also staying open to learning some fresh way to understand the rejected concepts?

Prayer:

Pray the Lord’s prayer (the Our Father), paying attention to what words are meaningful to you and what ones give you trouble.  Then choose one word or phrase to hold in the Light, praying to be touched or taught in a fresh or deeper way through that word or phrase.

For further reflection:

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.  Lead me in your truth, and teach me. . . . (See Psalm 25: 4-5).

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us”  (Hebrews 12: 1).

Prayers of Simple Presence

In the Spiritual Nurturers class of School of the Spirit Ministry, having trouble finding time to pray and doing it routinely is a common early complaint. Perhaps we imagine that the only prayers that count are long and dutiful. Instead, prayer is about relationship and intimacy with the Source of life and being, more about a certain quality than a necessary time frame or pattern.

There are many ways to pray that take little time.   A doctor I knew, following approved practice, carefully cleaned her hands prior to visiting each patient. The hand-washing time was prayer time. She collected herself, centered in God, and brought into that grounded internal space the person she would be seeing. There were no words, and it took only seconds, yet it opened the doctor to being with the patient in a more healing way.

Some prayers are simply responses to a situation— Help! Thanks. Wow! These are prayers because they acknowledge the More, they are felt deeply, and the pray-er is changed.

Slow, deep, mindful breathing can also be prayer. It can be inviting relationship with the Holy, because it is usually done intentionally and often includes letting go the distractions and busyness, even doubts, that keep one unavailable both to oneself and to God. Paying attention to the breath can be paying attention to Spirit.

The deepening of one’s relationship with God, with Mystery, changes the quality of prayer. It isn’t easy. Meanwhile what is most important is to pray as one can and not as one can’t.

Queries:

How can you pray?

What do you yearn for that draws you to want to pray? What are your concerns?

Prayer:

Silently repeat over and over a brief prayer sentence, breathing in while saying the first part of the words and breathing out while saying the rest of it. For example, “O Lord,/ be my helper” (Psalm 30: 10b).

For further reflection:

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought . . .” (Romans 8: 26).

“When I felt secure, I said, ‘I shall never be moved.’ . . . but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.” (Psalm 30: 6-7).