The more we call on God
the more we can feel God's presence.
Day by day we are drawn closer
to the loving heart of God.
Daily Prayer - 2013-01-02
The more we call on God
Many countries are at this moment suffering the agonies of war.
I bow my head in thanksgiving for my freedom.
I pray for all prisoners and captives.
Knowing that God loves me unconditionally,
I look honestly over the last day, its events and my feelings.
Do I have something to be grateful for? Then I give thanks.
Is there something I am sorry for? Then I ask forgiveness.
This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, "I am not the Messiah." And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the prophet?" He answered, "No." Then they said to him, "Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" He said, "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,'" as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, "Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?" John answered them, "I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal." This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.
Some thoughts on today's scripture
- Saint John Paul II, writing on the need for ecumenism, stated that “The Church must breathe with her two lungs”. He was recognising that the Church has an eastern as well as a western tradition and needs both if it is to be whole and healthy. Saints Basil and Gregory, whom we honour today, represent the eastern tradition and remind us to pray for the unity of all Christians. What do you know about these men and their legacy? Have you ever visited an eastern church (Catholic or Orthodox)?
- In the gospel John the Baptist deflects attention from himself onto Christ. John’s role is to “make straight the way of the Lord” and then to step aside. John represents what all Christians are called to be: witnesses to Christ, heralds of the Good News. Do you see yourself as a witness and a herald?
Begin to talk to Jesus about the piece of scripture you have just read.
What part of it strikes a chord in you?
Perhaps the words of a friend - or some story you have heard recently -
will slowly rise to the surface of your consciousness.
If so, does the story throw light on what the scripture passage may be trying to say to you?
I thank God for these few moments we have spent alone together and for any insights I may have been given concerning the text.
Read over the passage, slowly, several times and see if any word or phrase stands out for you, and stay with that phrase for as long as you like before turning your attention to any other.
The process is a bit like sucking a boiled sweet (for US readers, hard candy). Do not try to analyse the phrase, just as you would not normally break up a boiled sweet and subject it to chemical analysis before tasting it.
Often a phrase will catch the attention of our subconscious mind's needs long before our conscious mind is aware of the reason for the attraction. That is why it is good to remain with the phrase for as long as possible without trying to analyse it.
I may find all sorts of distractions running through my mind, but some thoughts, far from being distractions, can become the substance of my prayer. It is as though the phrase of Scripture is a searchlight which plays upon my stream of consciousness, thoughts, memories, reflections, daydreams, hopes, ambitions, fears, and I pray out of the mixture of God's word and my inner thoughts and feelings.
The opening verse of the Bible, Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep and God's spirit hovered over the water, is describing a present state of affairs, not a past event, and when I pray from the Scriptures I am letting the spirit of God hover over the chaos and darkness of my being.
When I allow the word of God to hover over my preoccupations, then anything can happen, for he is the God of surprises. It is important that I do not hide my inner chaos from the word of God or from myself. We are often so trained that we think it wrong to allow any negative feelings entry into our prayer, especially negative feelings about God. We have to learn to grow out of this training, expressing our feelings and thoughts freely before God and trusting that he is big enough to take our tantrums. There is no point in pretending before God, who knows us better than we know ourselves.
There is no thought, feeling or desire within you which cannot become the substance of your prayer in the light of God's word, when you know that God loves the chaos that is you and that his Spirit working in you can do infinitely more than you can think or imagine.
Trying to pray like this, it may well happen that the mind begins to fill with questions and apparent distractions. How do I know that I am not deceiving myself? How do I know these words are true, that God really does communicate himself through them? Do I really have faith in God? These are valid questions, but for now let them wait. When a child is frightened in the night, mother goes and lifts the child and says, 'It's all right,' and the child gradually quietens. But if she has a prodigy on her hands who replies, 'But mother, what epistemological and metaphysical assumptions are you making in that statement and what empirical evidence can you adduce in support of your contention?' then mother really has a problem in her arms. In prayer we are like that impossible child if we refuse to listen to God until he has measured up to whatever criteria we may care to lay down. We communicate with him first with our hearts. The heart is not mindless: it has reasons, deeper than we can see at first with our conscious minds.
Having left the questions aside for now, what do I do with all the other distractions which flood my mind? I may begin to wonder if I left the gas on, or remember an Email I forgot to send. If it is urgent, like the gas, the safest thing is to go and check. With matters that can wait, perhaps jot them down for later. Anything else which comes to mind, far from being a distraction, can become the substance of my prayer.