October 21-22, 2017

Oct 17, 2017

One of the most fascinating topics religious people like to converse about is PRAYER. We know that prayer is fundamental to a spiritual life, and most of us pray, perhaps more than we think we do. Why is that? Why are we not always aware that we are praying? One reason may be that we think of prayer in a very narrow way and that we are not familiar with the many facets and forms of being in touch with God in our everyday experience and behavior. I remember being taught that “prayer is lifting up our minds and hearts to God.” This is a very broad description of prayer, but in our teaching methods throughout the years we have narrowed this description by validating and emphasizing only certain forms and formats of prayer. In recent years, with the growing emphasis on contemplative prayer, we find a wide variety of prayer forms and methods. And many of these recently emphasized prayer forms have a number of variations and adaptations. This trend is not a denial of more customary or traditional prayer styles or forms, but rather it raises our consciousness to the reality that we all meet and converse and grow in relationship with our heavenly Father in our own unique way, the way God made us to be. And the God of goodness, beauty, and truth made each one of us unique and different so that we in turn can reflect and share with one another the goodness, beauty, and truth of His creation. 

One form or style of prayer that especially appeals to my particular personality and make-up is that of “silent awareness.” We need to remember that liturgical (the common prayer of the church) and private prayers are distinct prayer forms. We need common prayer and we need private prayer. One form complements the other, and sometimes these two forms coincide with one another. My private “silent awareness” (for lack of a more nuanced word at this time) is a form of contemplation and meditation. This prayer style as with other prayer forms becomes prayer when it proceeds from the mind and heart. A book or some other object might be helpful as a focus point, but real prayer proceeds from the heart when the heart is oriented toward God. 

I like to gaze at a tree or at a squirrel or a sunset or a cloud and just enjoy what I am looking at. The quiet around me is itself a blessing from God, and the beauty of God’s creation moves me to reflect on its beauty, its uniqueness, its special place in the world God made. Where is the prayer? The prayer is in my perception, in the affirmation and enjoyment of the silence, God’s creation, and in my grateful heart. The prayer is in my awareness and acknowledgment that these creatures are OF GOD, that they are good and beautiful, and that in gratitude I enjoy being in their presence. Being in their presence puts me in the presence of the God who made all things good. I may or may not utter a word, but my silent heart speaks volumes. It seems that my prayer is just being at rest in the presence of God’s awesome creation. No, this is not liturgical prayer, nor is it a formulated devotional prayer from a script. But sometimes as I say “Amen” to God in these precious moments of quiet engagement, I think I can hear God’s “Amen” echo my own. 

Fr. Dennet