Meditations and Reflections: September 2005 Archives

About Prayer

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I loved this passage.

from Ascent to Love Sister Ruth Burrows,
quoting Wendy Mary Beckett, "Simple Prayer," in Clergy Review

The simplicity of prayer, its sheer, terrifying, uncomplicatedness, seems to be either the last thing most of us know or want to know. It is not difficult to intellectualise about prayer--like love, beauty and motherhood it quickly sets our eloquence aflow, it is not difficult but it is perfectly futile. In fact those glowing pages on prayer are worse than futile; they can be positively harmful. Writing about prayer, reading about prayer, talking about prayer, thinking about prayer, longing for prayer and wrapping myself more and more in these great cloudy sublimities that make me feel so aware of the spiritual: anything rather than acutally praying. What am I doing but erecting a screen behind which I can safely maintain my self-esteem and hide away from God?

The writing is less than grand, but the idea is perfect. Too often I take any recourse to escape from prayer. What am I afraid of? Perhaps it is the Keatsian, "Being too happy in thy happiness, thou light-winged dryad. . ." Perhaps it is loss of identity, perhaps it is any number of a thousand other possibilities. But the reality is that I use all of these escape mechanisms and more. Do you?

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Come, let us sing to the Lord . . .


and shout with joy to the Rock Who saves us.

Every day for more years than I can count, I have started the day of prayer with this psalm

Come, let us sing to the Lord
and shout with joy to the Rock Who saves us.
Let us approach Him with praise and thanksgiving
and sing joyful songs to the Lord.

Every day, year in year out, I trudge through this Invitatory because it is the gateway to morning prayer. After the first few times it becomes almost painful to repeat it. After a year or so of pain, it becomes numbing, and your lips and mind simply hum through it to get to the point.

But this is the gateway to the day. This is the morning offering you make upon entering morning prayer. This is the practice of the presence of God. Come, let us sing to the Lord. What good advice--no matter what the circumstances of life. When I sing to the Lord I am drawn out of myself and the problems of the day. I am made better simply by not being me--or, said better, by being who I really am rather than who I make myself out to be.

"And shout with joy to the Rock Who saves us." How many of us shout with joy in any sense each day? How many of us leap up in spontaneous praise and worship? Yet, we can "train" ourselves to do so. I can make a practice of joy, or recognizing the presence of God in my life and joyfully give thanks. My face can beam the radiance of joy to all around me. Joy is not something I sustain, it is sustained by grace. All too often, I take grace for granted. It is some invisible, intangible thing that I "bank" as I participate in prayers and sacraments. But grace is more than that. In one version of the translation of the Sanctus we sing, "Heaven and Earth are filled with your Glory." I like this version because it suggests a never ending supply. "Banking" grace is like banking dry ice--you'll open up the vault to find it empty. Grace is replenished as it is expressed in our living with others. When I take a moment to make someone's day better, I am depending upon grace. Grace is "spent" and immediately regenerated and refilled. Indeed, "my cup runneth over." Grace must be expressed. Grace is given to accomplish God's work in the world and in my own life. I can't store it up, like manna, it doesn't keep for more than the time it is needed. But when it is needed (at every moment of the day) and "used" it is never "used up." When we "shout with joy to the Rock Who saves us," we express that gift.

Let us approach Him with praise and thanksgiving. . . From Father O'Holohan I learned a truth that is inexpressibly valuable--the grateful heart cannot be an unhappy heart. When I express thanksgiving, when I am grateful for who I am and what I have been given, I am expressing joy in the gifts God has showered on me. I have written God a little thank you note and God who gives ever generously, even without thanks, delights in giving more to those who at least recognize that all is gift. Praise likewise takes us out of ourselves and directs our attention to the Persons who give us everything worth living for. Praise broadens us and makes us firmer vessels of grace because it encourages true humility. Praise can only properly come from one who knows his place in the scheme of things and has rightly ordered his life to reflect that place. Praise lifts me up toward God because it allows me to be who I really am and to know where I belong in the scheme of things.

Joyful praise and thanksgiving are expressed in our morning song. Even if I do not sing, I sing when I act for God. In The Simarillion and The Kalevala which it much resembles, the God of creation sang everything into being. While our own scriptures do not mention this mode of creation, I do not find it at all unlikely. Everything around me swims in the rhythm of divine song. I think of Bach's Four Part Inventions or Art of Fugue and extend the voices infinitely until there is between every living thing, and all those things and people who have passed before a woven connection of musical themes. We sing to God because it adds to the texture of the melody of creation. God made us to sing. God made us to praise. God made us to love and to be loved. God made us to be vessels of grace. God made us to be God for other people, to lead them to Him, to bring everyone home.

A grateful, praising heart is fertile ground for God to plant the seed of His Word, divinely spoken, begotten not made, one of the Three. And where there is one, there are all three.

So, it seems, the gateway to prayer is itself an entire world of prayer, properly seen. If I could keep this verse in my heart through the day of chance encounters and frustrations, I would grace those arouond me and I would "practice the presence of God." I would give Him praise and delight Him, simply by bringing Him to mind.

Come, let us sing to the Lord
and shout with joy to the Rock Who saves us.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Meditations and Reflections category from September 2005.

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