Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Prayer Makes Us Human

Prayer provides a practice through which we come home to ourselves in the moment that God has given us with the gifts that God has provided. We do not pray to become someone else – some spiritual giant. Our prayers will not make of us more Nouwens, more Bonhoeffers, more Kings, more Coffins. Our prayers will make us ourselves – fully human, nothing more but nothing less.

As such, prayer is, as Nouwen said, resistance. It is resistance to all that would make of us something less than human. Our prayers for healing are resistance to the ways in which our own deep woundedness would deny us our humanity. That is not to suggest that woundedness is not part of humanness, but rather to acknowledge that wounds can dehumanize. Abuse suffered all too easily becomes abuse inflicted. Emotional damage too easily becomes emotional weaponry. Pain suffered too easily becomes an excuse for pain inflicted.

Prayers for healing and wholeness do not deny the reality of suffering and pain, but rather they seek a way through brokenness to compassion – to suffering with, such that our own experiences of brokenness open us to deeper connections with others in their suffering.

I tried to include a nice graphic that I found here: http://www.justpeace.org/prayer.htm. That site has a number of links on prayer from a Roman Catholic perspective as well as the picture that wouldn't cooperate when I tried to steal it -- er, borrow it -- I mean, appropriate it in an artistic fashion in keeping with the established norms of post modern art.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Peg says - Prayer, for me, makes us fully ourselves because we can relax and be ourselves knowing we are loved and accepted unconditionally by God. Being someone who often sees interaction with others as a form of prayer I don't find individual meditation alone a fully satisfying form of prayer. But there are times. Prayer brings peace so I can think clearly and act in ways I want to act - living out my faith each day. I can be me - warts and all.

Karen said...

Prayer makes us human...and helps us to be ourselves"....I like that...

We are better...more human or perhaps more aware of ourselves...for experiencing and acknowledging the brokenness.

I am reminded of the book Buddhists in Disguise, where photographer/author Irene Taylor explains that Buddhists who believe that one who reaches Nirvana returns to earth as a deaf person or someone with 'disabilities' to teach us compassion. Can we fully understand compassion through another's experience? Are we that sensitive? Aware?
Do we need to suffer and feel pain...to acknowledge our own vulnerability? As you write, "Prayers for healing and wholeness do not deny the reality of suffering and pain, but rather they seek a way through brokenness to compassion – to suffering with, such that our own experiences of brokenness open us to deeper connections with others in their suffering."

Prayer, then, is a kind of mirror. A place to reflect upon life's events ("reflect" meaning both to ponder and to see an image in a looking glass to view ourselves as simply human "nothing more, nothing less"). Prayer is a way for me to learn and to understand, to cope, to see, to learn........

I want to share my favorite prayer from the Union Prayer Book. I heard it first when Marty and I attended Yom Kippur services on Kole Nidre. It is about journey of life/the journey of prayer.

Life is a Journey
By Rabbi Alvin Fine ...

Birth is a beginning
And death a destination
And life is a journey;
From childhood to maturity
And youth to age;
From innocence to awareness
And ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to discretion
And then, perhaps to wisdom;
From weakness to strength
Or strength to weakness----

And often, back again;
From health to sickness
And back, we pray, to health again;
From offense to forgiveness
From loneliness to love
From joy to gratitude,
From pain to compassion,
And grief to understanding---
From fear to faith;
From defeat to defeat to defeat ----

Until, looking backward or ahead,
We see that victory lies
Not at some high place along the way,
But in having made the journey, stage by stage,
A sacred pilgrimage.

Birth is a beginning
And death a destination
And life is a journey,
A sacred pilgrimage ---

To life everlasting.

mr. doug said...

I like what Peg and Karen both say here. He only question, then is, what is it to be human? Other than to accept our broken-ness, our imperfection, our dependence on God, and our need for relationship with other people?

I feel that Prayer is a way of quietness, of letting the small, or loud sometimes, voice of God speak. It brings to mind my work here, and some tension around the camp committee. We need to be of single mind, and prayer gives us that. Otherwise, if we do not go into our day with prayer, our words and actions are self driven rather than God driven.

Anonymous said...

From Bryan: Thank you Karen for sharing the prayer/poetry! I really enjoyed reading that.

I appreciate what Nowuen said when he stated that "prayer is...resistance to all that would make of us something less than human". To me, it's as if this is one way that we're fighting the dark places in our lives; we are fighting against 'the world'. As dim as it seems, sometimes I feel like my life is one giant struggle. Sometimes I feel like I have a constant internal struggle between what I want to do and what I should do. I feel like I've been influenced by 'the world' so much that I completely lose sight many times throughout a given day.

That's where I think prayer comes in. Prayer is an anchor. I'm not saying that I've ever been wise enough to realize (during those times of weakness) that I need to pray, but I think prayer helps with the struggle (at least for the monents that one is praying) and it does make one more whole...more human...more human as true humanity was supposed to be. Does that make sense?

Anonymous said...

James here... I find that prayer has a centering effect. When time comes to meditate and pray on something, it takes you to the key areas of your life that need attention of some kind. It identifies the current priorities in your life and helps you think through them, seek comfort and find a way to carry on. So often we have so much going on in our lives and everything seems so important or distracting. A time of prayer somehow allows the mind and spirit to filter out a lot of the lesser things and identify what's really in need of addressing. As a result, some of the other things seem less urgent, and I think the process of prayer helps clear the deck of a lot of distractions in that way and leads to a healthier more centered life.