Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
I was meditating tonight, & God let me know I'm actually pretty shy about really praying.
Yes, I mean silently praying-- but really addressing it to God as one who, after all, has been with me 66 years now without once blasting me to a grease spot... and who really has helped me, really has made my life... a life, and a good thing, a really amazing wonderful thing when I notice. Why am I shy about asking for stuff... expecting, like when I'd ask my parents for something, I might be sorry I asked?
Of course the surprises can be a lot more interesting than if I got precisely what I'd thought I wanted...
but there's something downright peculiar, when I think about it, about not asking. I don't mean like: "I'd like a puppy and a big car and an electric train and " I mean, we're supposed to ask for our daily bread! Not just expect it-- of course we expect it-- but we're supposed to ask for it. Why?
My favorite yogi recommends making a practice of asking God for help in minor decision-making. Not because it matters what we decide, but because asking matters, because you can establish a habit for those times when you really need guidance.
I think that part of the Lord's Prayer is there for a similar reason. Ask for the big, significant, impersonal things that matter to the whole world, but also ask for your daily bread. Every day. Because you will get it, and because asking matters. Because orienting yourself toward God, coming back to that when you drift away, is what you really need, and it doesn't happen often enough if you stop doing that.
This may even be why-- a big part of why-- Liberal meetings have failed to connect so many of us to God. No meeting actually forbids prayer, but I've very seldom heard it at meeting.
We think of internal silence as being the most reverent thing we can do in meeting... but maybe, I think, we're just not holding up our end.
For years God was shouting prayers in my ear at meetings and I was afraid to pray them. I wasn't afraid of God...I was afraid 0f you the people -- of what you would think. The problem for me with meetings, at that time long ago, was that I wanted a liberal meeting so I could take my time in finding the god of my understanding, but all the different voices made it hard for me to speak the voice that was coming through, even when I was quaking. When I finally spoke the message I heard, some even spoke up to tell me I was wrong!
It's fine now. Because eventually, the still small voice, which kept speaking, helped me to become stronger in my faith, and my faith became strong enough to enable me to speak, and to pray, and even to minister.
It isn't the meetings which fail to connect us to God, it is our own courage to speak what God is ministering to us, even if it goes against the grain of the meeting. What was given to me was not in fact any narrow message that could not be held in the Light of our more liberal meeting. Only my fear thought it so. As a newly convinced Friend, wanting acceptance, I judged the message before I let it come forth. So it never stood the test of standing in the Light.
Nowadays, I'm not so judgmental. I listen, and I ask God, is this for me or for the meeting. I listen more and I pray. If there is a concern before the meeting and a prayer comes to mind, I do stand and pray it out. I realize that it is a gift to be able to give words to what may be on many a mind. I trust that if there is a correction needed, God has many other hearts to minister with who may be listening a little more closely than I, and all will be well...and it is.
It's not that I'm saying all is right with the world -- we all know that's not the case. I'm saying humans aren't perfect, but we function better as a group, and it is not the individual or the meeting that fails, it is the individual who fails to follow God's will when worrying about what the others in the group will think of his/her ministry.
one day in meeting i so clearly heard "why do you people always expect me to do the talking? communication is a two way street. you want to hear me. i want to hear you."
but, the liberal meeting i attended doesn't want to hear much of god, especially if god is telling them to do something. i've never heard anyone talking to god, not even giving thanks.
liberal meetings, in one way fail to connect people to god because for so many people in those meeting, there is no god.
now doesn't that raise some questions for those who are truly seeking?
Questions like "Why should people look where many people aren't finding?" A lot of new attenders really may be feeling something much like that, & therefore not coming back...
But I don't think God is absent; it's like what someone said about the modern world in general: ~"If God seems absent it's because people have turned away." God can be extremely polite around atheists, but is also gracious enough to put in an appearance when a person becomes more receptive.
In general, people feel self conscious about prayer in our post modern society. My meeting is better than many other liberal meetings, but some people still dissemble when things get too close to what they have fled.
A few years ago, I was walking down a deserted urban street at sunset. I noticed a man facing a wall, rocking back and forth. I kept a close eye on him. As I came closer I realized it was a Hasid. It was Friday, the beginning of the sabbath. Caught outside, he prayed where he was.
I'm trying to grow into that openness of dialog with God.
My dear F/friend Kristi was recently confronted by an atheist, "I don't believe in a God who would allow the deaths of so many".
Her prompt response: "I don't believe in a gravity that would let me fall."
Presence trumps belief.