Saturday, August 29, 2015


+ This post includes entries from August 29, 2015 until October 26, 2015. Latest entries are at the top. If you would like to contribute, write JW in your subject line and send it to or make a comment on my Facebook page if you are a Facebook friend of mine.

Today I am devoting myself to the spiritual practice of prayer which I regard as the comprehensive term for all spiritual practice. 

“Prayer is none other than an expanding of our hearts in the presence of God.” -- John Calvin

For me, prayer begins with simply being still and listening to the wisdom which comes in mysterious and wonderful ways.  To remind me to pray I use the mindfulness bell when I sit in front of my computer. As a Christian I am called by the apostle Paul to pray unceasingly.  This is simple but not easy!

I am particularly fond of the Prayer attributed to Saint Francis:

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

This, I believe, is prayer at its best for it emphasizes service, compassion, reconciliation, unity, cooperation and, most of all, peace.  Peace is beyond understanding.  In Christ we are offered a peace which is different than any peace the world offers.  To find this peace, detachment and humility are essential.  We can live up to the ideals of this wonderful prayer only by “letting go and letting God.” This requires practice, practice, practice and, then, more practice.  Practice throughout life.  Never stop practicing.  

The more we practice, the more we can reduce our attachments to worldly pleasures and expectations. We can become our true selves, the Real Self God intends us to be.  This is bliss.  This is heaven.  This is the treasure we seek and which requires giving up all other treasures.  This can only be accomplished through prayer.

Praying is done in solitude and in community.  Both are essential.  We are accountable both to God or our True Self AND to each other, to every creature, to everything everywhere.  We must reach deeply within and far, far out, as deep and as far as we can.  The founder of my branch of Christianity, John Calvin, said it well: “Prayer is none other than an expanding of our hearts in the presence of God.”

Of course, other wise voices have spoken as well.  Mary Oliver encourages us in this way:

It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Prayer is far more listening than speaking.  It is wise to heed the guidance of Sue Bender who said: “Listening to your heart, finding out who you are is not simple. It takes time for the chatter to quiet down. In the silence of 'not doing' we begin to know what we feel. If we listen and hear what is being offered, then anything in life can be our guide.”

Openness is essential.  Henri J.M. Nouwen (1932-1996), a great spiritual teacher, spoke eloquently about this practice:

"To pray means to open your hands before God. It means slowly relaxing the tension which squeezes your hands together and accepting your existence with an increasing readiness, not as a possession to defend, but as a gift to receive. Above all, prayer is a way of life which allows you to find a stillness in the midst of the world where you open your hands to God's promises and find hope for yourself, your neighbor, and your world. In prayer, you encounter God not only in the small voice and the soft breeze, but also in the midst of the turmoil of the world, in the distress and joy of your neighbor, and in the loneliness of your own heart.

"Prayer leads you to see new paths and to hear new melodies in the air. Prayer is the breath of your life which gives you the freedom to go and to stay where you wish and to find the many signs which point out the way to a new land. Praying is not simply some necessary compartment in the daily schedule of a Christian or a source of support in a time or need, nor is it restricted to Sunday mornings or mealtimes. Praying is living. It is eating and drinking, action and rest, teaching and learning, playing and working. Praying pervades every aspect of our lives. It is the unceasing recognition that God is wherever we are, always inviting us to come closer and to celebrate the divine gift of being alive.”

And, finally, here is the big question as Brother David Steindl-Rast puts it: “… prayer is an attitude, an attitude of lifting up heart and mind to God. So … ask, ‘What lifts up your heart and mind? …’ Whatever lifts up your heart, focus on that.” (found in Celeste Yacoboni, How Do You Pray?)

Yes, what lifts up MY heart and mind?  Let me list a few things here: My wife, my family, my friends, my church, my planet, my universe, my discoveries, my explorations, my history, my dreams and visions, my hopes, my travels, my colleagues, my teachers, tastes, odors, movement, music, ideas and more.

What lifts up YOUR heart and mind?

Keep praying.  Keep celebrating “the divine gift of being alive.” Be open to all kinds of possibilities.

+ Since JW56 I have been to England and Wales and, closer to home, the Adirondacks and the Berkshires.  My life has been affected deeply by the deaths of my wonderful mother-in-law, Dorothy Hann, and my wonderful sister, Anita Solomon.  

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