Sunday, May 17, 2015

It Takes You

Anyone who has ever been on a spiritual journey- or sees their life as one- will be able to recount times when wherever we are becomes a place of enlightenment. Of course, any time and any place can be a place of enlightenment, we just have to be open at every given moment to hear or see it happening.

That happened to me again today. We were talking with a person who will be helping a relative out with some chores and the like. The person was giving us a brief Twitter-length account of their life. They referred to their life-journey as a "vision quest"-type of thing. [Yep- I can go with that one!]

They then talked about a simple prayer that they say daily- and as often as possible each day. It was what is referred to as either the Prayer of the Heart or the Jesus Prayer. Here is what you can find in Wikipedia:

The prayer has been widely taught and discussed throughout the history of the Church. It is often repeated continually as a part of personal ascetic practice, its use being an integral part of the eremitic [desert Fathers and Mothers] tradition  of prayer. The prayer is particularly esteemed by the spiritual fathers of this tradition as a method of opening up the heart and bringing about the Prayer of the Heart [which] is considered to be the Unceasing Prayer that the apostle Paul advocates in the New Testament.
I knew this person was a pilgrim. It wasn't what he said as much as how he put it into the context of daily living. Basically, he implied, you just do the prayer. You do it all day. You do it as you get up and as you go to bed. You live the prayer.

But, no that is not quite true, this pilgrim of the soul added. After you start praying it, I was told...
the prayer takes you!
Oh how true. Unceasing prayer does that. The pilgrim I met today is on the right path. For Christians the Jesus Prayer or Prayer of the Heart is a living mantra that allows the work of the soul to be enriched and enlightened. It is the prayer that will move us beyond words to the depths of our hearts.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
As the pilgrim described it to me the words flowed slowly and with clarity. No word was missed, no word was seen as too little or unimportant. The slow, breathing way the words were said was a witness to their depth. This was not rote prayer. This was prayer that asked for nothing but grace.

Living and breathing prayer can make all the difference.

I have heard this many times in the past since first being introduced to this marvelous prayer of simplicity over 30 years ago. But as I listened today to a practical explanation of it's importance, it was as if I was hearing it for the first time again. It was always new and always fresh. I think of this for my own spiritual practice and tradition when I hear the 11th step of Alcoholics Anonymous:
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry it out.
It's amazing- but you never know when God is about to teach you a new old lesson. Let the prayer live and take you where you need to go.

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