Walking Our Faith: You’re not actually talking to yourself
Walking Our Faith
I am in Fort Lauderdale this week visiting Mom. Because of her recent hospital stay with congestive heart failure, being here takes on a new sense of urgency and an understanding of how precious our days are together.
We’ve been going out to dinner and taking drives along the beach road, and attending to practical things like cleaning out closets. They feel less like chores than acts of love to make her life more comfortable after I return to Colorado.
We’re also spending hours talking. Mom expressing the fears she has about getting older, the frustration she feels sometimes, which brings her to tears when she senses that health care providers are talking down to her, mistaking her age with diminishing mental acuity.
And I realize that part of growing older means that in the eyes of strangers we are sometimes seen as losing our ability to speak for ourselves. And that is unfortunate because I don’t think we ever cease to be the individuals we were created to be, no matter how old we become. I wish we would learn to treat one another with the respect we deserve at every age.
As we age, we can feel as if we are slowly disappearing, that we are no longer being heard as we try to speak for ourselves. Similarly as we seek God we often wonder whether our prayers are being heard. In both instances we wonder, do our words make an impact?
As we enter our later years, we often find our souls calling us into a deeper relationship with God. This subtle but persistent yearning is one I’ve been experiencing during this year’s Lenten season.
We are called to fasting during Lent. Giving up things in our lives that create obstacles between ourselves and a closer relationship with God and those which keep us from becoming the person God created us to be.
With this new space we have created in our lives, we are asked to give up ourselves to others, whether in time or treasure, we are asked to serve. And finally, during Lent we are asked to devote ourselves to prayer.
My mother goes to her bedroom, closes the door, sits in a comfortable chair next to her bed, opens her Bible and speaks with God, just as outlined in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Saint Matthew. I like this plain-spoken translation from The Message:
“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.”
The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:
“Our Father in heaven, reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what’s best — as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.” (Matthew; 6:6-13; MSG)
You really can’t go wrong with this simple formula.
This morning I was reading one of my favorite spiritual writers, Henri Nouwen. He suggested our prayer life has two components: First, time alone each day where we seek God with our innermost being, not to find out if he is listening, but rather to quiet our minds and realize the Holy Spirit is always present and waiting for us to respond. Today is the perfect time to begin this daily practice of 10 minutes with God.
Second, Nouwen recommends finding a prayer community. I find this on Thursday afternoons when I attend Holy Hour at St. Mary’s. Even though we are sitting in silent contemplation of the Blessed Sacrament, there is an atmosphere of community. Another example is a small group which prays the Rosary at 7:30 in the morning, before Mass at St. Mary’s.
At Saint John The Baptist Episcopal Church they recently started a 30-minute Community prayer service on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. There are churches throughout Summit County which offer similar mid-week community prayer services, I encourage you to find one near you.
Whether you seek God as you snowshoe through the woods, drive to work, drift off to sleep at night, clasp your rosary or the hand of your partner, the where and how are not nearly as important as making conversation with God a daily habit that comes as naturally as eating a meal or drinking a glass of water.
When seeking God becomes part of our daily lives, even when at first it feels as if we are speaking to ourselves, with time we discover a closer relationship with God and the reality of his surrounding us with love and peace.
Suzanne Anderson lives in Breckenridge.
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