Prayer is as natural to a (person) as speaking, sighing and seeing, as natural as the palpitation of a loving heart; and actually that is what prayer is: a murmur, a sigh, a glance, a heartbeat of love.
I have been reading a lot of stories of saints and mystics who lived from the 13th to 15th centuries. Their stories are filled with visions, ecstasies and conversations with the Divine. Truthfully, it can make one’s own spiritual life seem pathetic in comparison, not to mention, leave one feeling a little neglected by God. One biographer explains that the middle ages was a unique time for humans who were steeped in an aura of supernatural mystery. In fact, she argues that visions and ecstatic experiences were not only accepted, but expected.
Safe to say the modern 21st century is not a fertile ground for such thinking and experiences. It makes me sad, really. Perhaps I am a romantic, but I would relish some divine intervention of that sort. And while I may not have visions or hear voices, I definitely experience my relationship with God as a reality in my daily life. This is what it is like for me:
After all my family members have gone in the morning, I sit at my computer, pull up the scripture readings of the day and read. I have other books nearby to help me understand what I read or expound on an area of spirituality that I am exploring. I especially take the psalm of the day as my own prayer. I let all the words sink in. I turn them around in my head but also let them rest in my heart. I share concerns that have arisen with God in a very conversational way. I just talk.
After a few minutes I flow into silence being careful not to hold onto any thoughts at this point. This time is valuable because I really need a break from my thinking mind. It is also the time for me to simply be with God and dispose of myself on God’s terms. I always seem to have an agenda…a honey-do-list for God. Like the poet, Edwina Gately, I can almost hear God say: “Hush, I can’t hear your heart beating.”
At some point I need to write. I jot down thoughts, complete or fragments, as well as questions and entreaties. If I have the luxury of lots of time, I take out my supplies and collage. I feel like the only adequate response to this encounter is to try to create something in return.
When it feels appropriate, I move into the rest of my day, taking a word or phrase from scripture or my other reading with me. And, this for me is key: I expect God to keep up his end of the conversation. I invite him to walk with me. Sometimes I beg for the companionship, admitting that I am an utter failure without him by my side.
I can say with 99.99999% confidence that God not only wants, but delights in, this kind of friendship and that this Beloved is ready and willing to do his share. God is everywhere hidden and whispering sweet nothings into our ear all day long. There are Divine messages and reassurances and challenges all around us. They flow in and through us. All it takes– eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart that believes all things.
(Quote attributed to Ernesto Cardenal, Nicaraguan poet and priest. Artwork is titled, Friends Talking by Linda Underwood)