By Kathy Keary
Part 3 of 3. Read all the articles here.
Marjorie J. Thompson, a Presbyterian pastor, describes the spiritual life in her book, Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life, as the way in which God relates to us and how we then relate to God. She characterizes prayer as the “essential expression of this relationship.”
She also writes that prayer is initiated by God. “No matter what we think about the origin of our prayers,” Thompson explains, “they are all a response to the hidden workings of the Spirit within.” She elaborates:
God’s desire for us ignites the spark of our desire for God … Paul assured us that the Spirit ‘helps us in our weakness’ and intercedes with ‘sighs too deep for words’ (Rom 8:26). Have you considered what an astonishing promise it is that the Spirit prays in us, and does so ‘according to the will of God’ (Rom 8:27)? Perhaps our real task in prayer is to attune ourselves to the conversation already going on deep in our hearts. Then we may align our conscious intentions with the desire of God being expressed at our core.
Thompson’s words bring to mind a memory that is secure in the lockbox of my heart. It occurred the last week of my brother Pat’s life. My sister Ann and I traveled to North Carolina to be with him while he was in the hospital. We certainly were unaware of how dire the situation would become. The doctors were in the initial stages of diagnosis. The situation was confused by the conflicting opinions of various specialists. One thing that was certain was that Pat was in a great deal of pain, which was heartbreaking to witness. It became obvious by the end of the week that his body had been ravaged by an aggressive metastatic cancer. The morning that he died, the doctors predicted he had two months to live. As the day progressed, the medical specialists reduced that expectation multiple times until they finally advised that death was imminent.
Amid the drama of the week, I was unable to engage in my regular prayer practices of meditative prayer and centering prayer as my monkey mind was in full force. I asked God to pray in me. The interior peace and calm that I experienced throughout a very disturbing and heart wrenching week assured me that the Spirit was indeed praying in me. I am convinced that the Spirit helped me in my weakness and “interceded with sighs too deep for words.”
During challenging times, when I lay my head down for the night, sometimes the only prayer that springs forth is the cry, “God!” followed by silence. The God who is “nearer to me than I am to myself,” who knows my heart through and through, proceeds to comfort my weary soul as if to say, “Be not afraid. I am with you always.”
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As we draw to a close our series Pray without Ceasing, we offer additional suggestions for ways to keep God at the center of our day drawing ever closer to St. Paul’s instruction to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5:16).
As Marjorie Thompson reminds us, prayer is happening in our hearts all the time. “Seek and you will find” the spiritual practice(s) that increases your awareness of the Spirit that prays within you and draws you into communion with the Living God. Nurture the kinship with the One who draws you in and loves you beyond measure.
Note: New articles in this series are posted to the website every Monday. The full series can be found here: An Invitation to Something New: The Contemplative Life. On Thursday’s we’ll send an email to remind you of the articles.
[Kathy Keary, a Precious Blood Companion and spiritual director, holds a master’s degree in theological studies and is a graduate of the Atchison Benedictine’s Sophia Center’s Souljourners Program, an intense study of spirituality and spiritual direction. Kathy believes that the divine is present and active in all of life and encourages others to be awakened to the God in all including the divine within. She enjoys accompanying others on their journey to wholeness discovering the person they were created to be.]
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