Time Was When I Wasn’t Able to Pray.

Categories: Church,Practices,Prayer

Time was when I wasn’t able to pray. I got confused between the imperfect institution of the church and the divine presence I experienced when I played music or felt/heard a paintbrush move across paper, smelled the vinegar-ish scent of white oak sawed, beheld the complex beauty of a person. I thought for the longest time when I prayed I was praying to an institution that may or may not have had my best interest at heart.

I have a mystical bent. I’ve had direct experiences of the divine – not especially special experiences – no burning bushes for me. A word/intuition was formed in my understanding that helped me know I count, have purpose born of spiritual gifts, though promised to us all, particular to me because of who I am and what I know/feel. But those spiritual experiences and the prayers/breaths I longed for didn’t necessarily match formal prayers I’d been taught or knew how to say.

I had a spiritual director who encouraged me to explore beyond the formal words of the church, and so I did. In that terrible/glorious time of experimentation, a spiritual space inside me opened, widened, deepened. That space is not always available to me – when I’m ashamed it closes like a trap. When I’m tired or anxious, I forget there is that space in me. And so I practice remembering to pray.

A great joy of this experimentation is I have found the prayers I learned to say in church turned out to be multivalent. Once I began to explore the space of prayer in me, I discovered no words actually describe that space and the experiences of comfort, trust, willingness to be present even if it scared me. I began to understand the formal words we say in church are metaphors, attempts, and discipline for the sweet work of exploring Divine presence. I stopped needing the words of the church to be one-dimensional and literal. I have now allowed the words of the church remind me of Divine presence, to remind me of my longing for that space.

I believe this is what we are doing in church together, beloved. Movement toward the heart of God compels us to be Love together, for the sake of the world’s repair.


Author: Laura Ruth Jarrett

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