[Our church has a weekly soaking prayer service. I led the meditation at last night’s service. I wanted to share this reflection on prayer with you. The quotes from Richard Rohr come from daily messages he sends to subscribers.]
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. (Lk 6:12)
Jesus went to pray. Look at the events leading up to Lk 6:12.
- He forgave the sins of the paralytic.
- He chose Levi, a tax collector, and then went to a party at Levi’s house.
- His disciples plucked grain as they walked through the field on the Sabbath
- He healed the withered hand of the man in the synagogue on the Sabbath
No wonder Jesus went to be with Abba God. His enemies were on his case. They confronted him on each of these occasions.
Right after he prayed, Jesus came down from the mountain, chose the apostles, and then delivered the Sermon on the Plain—the mission statement for the Kingdom Jesus came to proclaim. [For a poignant personal reflection on this scripture passage, please see http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/090711.html ]
Jesus teaches us about prayer and healing. Jesus’ basic purpose in going aside was to be with Abba God. Only one time did Jesus ask for anything when he prayed. Q. When was that? [A. Gethsemane—Father, if it is your will take this cup from me.] Jesus told us not to babble like the Gentiles:
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Mt 6:5 -8)
Then Jesus taught his disciples how to pray. He introduced them to the Our Father. I came across a modern version they use at the Casa del Sol center in new Mexico. It was written by John Philip Newell, former warden of Iona in Scotland:
Ground of all being,
Mother of life, Father of the universe,
Your name is sacred, beyond speaking.
May we know your presence,
may your longings be our longings in heart and in action.
May there be food for the human family today
and for the whole earth community.
Forgive us the falseness of what we have done
as we forgive those who are untrue to us.
Do not forsake us in our time of conflict
but lead us into new beginnings.
For the light of life, the vitality of life, and the glory of life are yours now and for ever.
Richard Rohr, the Franciscan teacher from Albuquerque, has a new book coming out in a few days. I am not a book sales person; however, I am looking forward to his new book—Breathe under Water where he examines the spiritual principles behind the 12 Step AA program.
Rohr, like Jesus, cautions us about our prayer:
Unfortunately, in the West, prayer had become something functional; something you did to achieve a desired effect—which too often puts the ego back in charge. As soon as you make prayer a way to get what you want, you’re not moving into any kind of new state of consciousness. It’s the same old consciousness, but now well disguised: “How can I get God to do what I want God to do?” It’s the egocentric self deciding what it needs, but now, instead of just manipulating everybody else, it tries to manipulate God.
This is one reason religion is so dangerous and often so delusional. If religion does not transform people at the level of both mind and heart, it ends up giving self-centered people a very pious and untouchable way to be on top and in control. Now God becomes their defense system for their small self! Even Jesus found this to be true of the scribes, Pharisees, and teachers of the law.
Prayer is not about manipulating God to get what we want. Prayer is being present to God and letting go so that we get what God wants. AA and Christian prayer are about letting go and letting God be God. Paul, often the mystic, tells us to let go and let God. God knows what we need and is taking care of us:
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Rom 8:26-28)
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose.
Tonight, as we let go and let the Spirit of the Risen Christ work is us, God will heal us, God will gives us what we need.
Tonight, simply be present to the Presence. In the words of Richard Rohr:
To finally surrender ourselves to healing, we have to have three spaces opened up within us—and all at the same time: our opinionated head, our closed-down heart, and our defensive and defended body. That is the work of spirituality—and it is work. Yes, it is finally the work of “a Power greater than ourselves,” and it will lead to great luminosity and depth of seeing.
And, I might add, healing.