So I’ve been struggling with the idea of prayer: how to draw myself back, to open myself to the Ground of my being, to centre the demands and busyness of my day around the beauty of the Sacred within which I dwell. I’ve struggled to find an in: the magic words which will draw my mind from the day’s clamour to a space of stillness. It’s been hard: I feel like a car engine suddenly thrust from fourth gear into reverse. I’ve struggled to move my knowledge of what prayer is from my head to my heart; from understanding and reflection to action. I’ve struggled to move from intellectualising and words to feeling and being.
Partly it’s because my life is busy, with a thousand competing claims and pressures on my time and attention and intellect. That’s a bit of a cop out, though, because the reality of the situation is that I’m scared.
Into this fear dropped a book, lent to me by my spiritual director: John Main’s Monastery Without Walls, which I started reading today. It’s funny that, if prayer for me is actually about getting out of my head and away from words, I should find a sense of direction in a book: but a sense of direction I now have.
Because prayer is not an intellectualised system of thought; prayer is not (always) words; prayer is not self-reflection or listening in quiet to an internal monologue – although it incorporates all those things. What prayer is, is this: the fullest openness of which we are capable, openness to the reality of Presence. Regular, silent times of attention to the Source, the Ground of our being. The silent, loving action of laying down everything we are, our very selves, before and within the infinite Mystery.
All this sounds quite beautiful, and deeply captivating: I long to open myself up, to abandon myself in the depths of the Force of compassion, to be utterly vulnerable in that. To rest within that, safe and loved and cared for. To become one with the Author of my life, Creator and creature together.
But that’s scary, because it means I have to be vulnerable. To acknowledge the fact that, the moment I stop, the moment I step away from the spiky din of ever-whirling thoughts – it hurts. There is a depth of pain waiting to be acknowledged, waiting to be honoured and held gently, and I don’t want that to happen.
That’s why it’s easier to read about it than to do it. That’s why I don’t pray. And that’s exactly why I need to.