In the school of prayer with Michael Mayne


 

Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! And that makes all the difference.

 
To quote Michael Mayne from Alleluia is our Song: Reflections on Eastertide, “Our struggles haven’t ended, nor has the world changed, because it is Easter Day. And yet because of Easter, everything has changed, all is different, because we have met Jesus and he has said ‘Peace be with you!'” (p. 13)
 
I first discovered Michael Mayne through his book, Learning to Dance. As with so many of his books, it is peppered with quotes from books that shaped him. This Sunrise of Wonder, written as a series of letters to his grandchildren, is no different.

 

Here are some extracts from This Sunrise of Wonder, from a chapter on prayer entitled “Prayer as giving attention to God”.

For the most part I let Michael Mayne speak in his own voice, with references to a mystic or two, for good measure. Check out the quotes in context to learn more about his influences.

 


I

“My value lies in the fact that I am my unique self, that no-one else who has ever lived, or who ever will, can be in exactly my relationship with God, or reflect his love back to him in exactly the same way. … ultimately that’s what life is about: it’s about learning to stand in your own space and discerning in its unfathomable depths a power greater than yourself who invites your attention; and not simply your attention but your love. And it is that kind of giving attention that we call prayer.” (p. 279)

II

“There is in each of us a Self that lies deeper than our conscious ego, that still point of your being where you are most truly you, so that the journey of prayer is largely a journey inwards. Not that prayer is self-analysis. Quite the reverse: it is a way of becoming detached, or escaping at least momentarily from the constant clamour of self. It is the way we begin to shift the centre of living from self-consciousness to self-surrender. … Prayer is about learning how to become still, open and receptive to the now, the present moment in which alone God is to be found.” (p. 280)

III

“St John of the Cross, a sixteenth-century Spanish mystic, said that the heart of prayer is giving ‘loving attention to God’; and certainly the starting point of prayer is to realize that it is not about words (or not much of the time); it’s about listening. It is about becoming still, remaining still, waiting, not being afraid of silence. … Birds, painting, music, books, people: we have to learn to go at their pace and tune to their wavelength. What we receive is related to what we give. Giving attention to God is no different, though much harder. For we are so used to doing that learning to be is like learning a foreign language. And we mustn’t expect to feel much. Feelings are not what count. What counts is simply being there.” (p. 282)

IV

“Jean-Pierre de Caussade was an obscure eighteenth-century French priest who wrote anonymously a book called Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, and the heart of it lies in the phrase by which it is best known: ‘the sacrament of the present moment’. He begins with the New Testament assertion that God’s nature is unchangeable love, that he loves us at every moment of our lives and ‘can no more stop loving us than the sun can stop radiating heat.’ It follows, he says, that if God’s loves come to us at every single moment then he is with us in the moment that is now. If we don’t find God in the actual world around us, and in ourselves at this moment, then we can’t expect to find him in our so-called ‘spiritual’ times of prayer. Therefore it is to this moment, and to this moment alone in all its singular nowness, that we should give our attention, so ‘that every moment of our lives’ becomes ‘a sort of communion with the divine love’.” (p. 286-7)

V

“I have never seen this day, all it contains, before and I shall never see it again, nor will I ever again be exactly the self I am now. It is quite literally the only way we can know God, in the here and now and by living this moment fully. It is also, of course, the only hope we have of ever changing how we are, with the possibility of redeeming the past or affecting the future. ‘This is the day that the Lord has made,’ says the Psalmist, ‘let us rejoice and be glad in it.’ … If I am even to begin to live like this (and the kind of prayer I have spoken of is the most effective way of learning it), then two things are necessary. First, that I really do come to know at gut level that I do walk through the world as one who is loved, whatever may be happening to me, and that every moment, even the worst, can be used by God. And, secondly, that I learn to give attention to each moment as it comes – this person to be seen (repeat, seen), that tricky letter to be written, this humdrum task to be done … and that is difficult, and most of the time we forget. But that, and that alone, is how we are called to be. Not that we are called to do, but how we are called to be. Attention givers. For that, when you think about it, is not a bad definition of love.” (p. 288-9)
 

Some practical advice

“You can’t sit still if you are uncomfortable. … Only when the body is at ease is the mind at ease. … How you breathe is also important. Stillness is achieved by the stilling of our agitated restless minds and bodies. Most of us breathe much too shallowly most of the time, engaging only the upper part of the lungs. So it’s good to begin by very gently giving attention to our breathing for a few moments, until we are breathing in and out in a smooth unbroken rhythm and our body is calm and centred.” (p. 283-4)

“Because our mind is so full of thoughts and sensations the quiet repetition of a word or familiar phrase is one of the simplest and most effective ways of practicing the presence of God. Words like ‘Abba’, the word Jesus used to address the Father, or the words, ‘Come, Lord Jesus’, or the Psalmist’s ‘Be still, and know that I am God’. There is the Jesus Prayer which has been said for centuries and is one of the greatest treasures of the Orthodox Church, the words, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner’. … It is repeated, quietly and slowly, over and over again as a way of bringing us to be in God’s presence with no other thought than the wonder of God being who he is and us being who we are. … To say such words, repeatedly, means that they gradually become part of you and may then well up from within you quite outside your formal times of prayer. … But perhaps best of all is to take the Lord’s Prayer. It does not really matter if occasionally you get no further than the opening two words, provided your understanding of the words ‘Our’ and “Father’ is a fraction deeper as a result.” (p. 285)
 

quotes from This Sunrise of Wonder by Michael Mayne, 2008 edition
 


 
From the blog
Sister moon
Ding! Dong! Curiosity
In the school of prayer with Ignatius of Loyola
 

Good grief


(Photo: Irene Bom)

 
Ken Cope writes,

Our traditional view of grief is that it should be reserved for funerals and tragedies. However, if we really want to encounter God and grow in our relationship with Him then our attitude toward grief must change from viewing it as an uncomfortable and unwanted drop-in visitor to seeing it as a dear and faithful companion that is an integral part of our daily journey with God. It is there to allow us to enter into the heart of Philippians 3:10, which is an invitation to share in the fellowship of His suffering.

When we allow ourselves to feel broken and alone, we gain a measure of understanding of the sacrifice that Christ made for us in going to the cross and being broken for us. Grief draws us to God Himself in ways that could not be accomplished through any other means.

 
source: A Sacred Sorrow: Experience Guide by Michael Card, p.11
 


Kyrie during Quarantine

Seeking peace in a broken world,
but also knowing God’s peace through God’s presence,
we pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.

Seeking peace in suffering, illness, and pain,
but also feeling God’s peace through healing, prayer, and those who help,
we pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.

Seeking peace through our distress, depression, isolation, and fear,
but also feeling God’s peace through the words of loved ones
and the hope we see in the world,
we pray to the Lord.
Lord, have mercy.

Seeking peace through the pain of worshipping separately,
longing for our holy community to be gathering,
but also feeling peace through God’s presence with each of us
as we worship together distantly,
we pray to the Lord.
Lord have mercy.

Help, save, comfort, and defend us, loving Lord.
We need you now, as we have needed you every day.
We cannot live without you.
Amen.

 
~ written by Pastor Nissa Peterson, posted on MightyNiss
 


 
Prayer poem for Lent 5B : You are right
 
This prayer poem is inspired by Psalm 51:1-12, in particular verse 4b: “… you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
 

Lament


Always speak the truth even if your voice shakes  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

To introduce this month’s theme of SORROW, an excerpt from the Foreward by Eugene Peterson published in Michael Card’s book, A Sacred Sorrow.

And if you want to try writing your own psalm of lament, check out the links below.
 


On weeping

Eugene Peterson writes,

It’s an odd thing. Jesus wept. Job wept. David wept. Jeremiah wept. They did it openly. Their weeping became a matter of public record. Their weeping, sanctioned by inclusion in our Holy Scriptures, a continuing and reliable witness that weeping has an honored place in the life of faith.

But just try it yourself. Even, maybe especially, in church where these tear soaked Scriptures are provided to shape our souls and form our behaviour. Before you know it, a half dozen men and women surround you with handkerchiefs, murmuring reassurances, telling you that it is going to be alright, intent on helping you to “get over it.”

Why are Christians, of all people, embarrassed by tears, uneasy in the presence of sorrow, unpracticed in the language of lament? It certainly is not a biblical heritage, for virtually all our ancestors in the faith were thoroughly “acquainted with grief.” And our Savior was, as everyone knows, “a Man of Sorrows.”

 
source: A Sacred Sorrow by Michael Card, p.11
 


Compose your own Psalm of Lament

During a recent episode of The Habit Podcast, David O. Taylor describes how we might write our own psalm of lament.

To find out more, go to thehabit.co and/or listen to the podcast episode.
 


 
Prayer poem for Lent 3B : Sweet words
 
This prayer poem is inspired by Psalm 19, in particular verse 14: “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
 

To dance with God

 

For this fourth and final post on the theme of DANCE I’ve found a story that overlaps with my chosen theme for December: CHILD.

The story is taken from the opening chapter of Gertrud Mueller Nelson‘s book, To Dance with God (1986).

Some years ago, I spent an afternoon caught up in a piece of sewing I was doing. The waste basket near my sewing machine was filled with scraps of fabric cut away from my project. This basket of discards was a fascination to my daughter Annika, who, at the time, was not yet four years old. She rooted through the scraps searching out the long bright strips, collected them to herself, and went off. When I took a moment to check on her, I tracked her whereabouts to the back garden where I found her sitting in the grass with a long pole. She was affixing the scraps to the top of the pole with great sticky wads of tape. “I’m making a banner for a procession,” she said. “I need a procession so that God will come down and dance with us.” With that she solemnly lifted her banner to flutter in the wind and slowly began to dance.

My three year old was not a particularly precocious toddler. I think, rather, that she was doing what three year olds do when left to their natural and intuitive religious sense and I was simply fortunate to hear and see what she was about. Mothers are often anthropologists of sorts and their children the exotic primitives that also happen to be under foot. This little primitive allowed me to witness a holy moment and I learned all over again how strong and real is that sense of wonder that children have – how innate and easy their way with the sacred. Here, religion was child’s play. And of course I had to wonder what happens in our development that as adults we became a serious folk, uneasy in our relationship with God, out of touch with the mysteries we knew in childhood, restless, empty, searching to regain a sense of awe and a way to “dance with God.”

 


Call to worship

The people of God were made for worship:
To sing and to praise, to laugh and to dance.
The people of God were made for God’s presence:
For pleasure and praise, for joy and for song.
Come, holy people, God’s chosen disciples:
Gather for worship, come from all places!
We have come to God’s temple, gathered together,
We have come to praise God and enjoy him forever.

~ from jesusscribbles
 

More food for thought

 

According to euronews.com, there are multiple benefits to eating locally and in season. For example:

  • reducing our carbon foot print
  • protecting local land and wildlife from mass-scale agriculture
  • minimizing our exposure to preservatives
  • reconnecting our body with nature’s cycles
  • enjoying nutrient dense food

 

Another benefit is that we get to share in the joy of harvest on a regular basis.


From the blog
Food for thought
Environmentally water-wise
From parched to satisfied
 

Sister moon


Misty moon at tramstop in downtown Rotterdam  (Photo: Irene Bom)

Praise him, [brother] sun and [sister] moon;
praise him, all you shining stars.

 

Psalm 148:3 (NIVUK) / Francis of Assisi

 


Full Solar Spirituality vs Lunar Spirituality

In her book, Learning to Walk in the Dark, Barbara Brown Taylor makes a case for “lunar spirituality” and letting the darkness teach us what we need to know. She writes,

“Full solar spirituality … deals with darkness by denying its existence or at least depriving it of any meaningful attention … it focuses on staying in the light of God around the clock, both absorbing and reflecting the sunny side of faith.”

“… my spiritual gifts do no seem to include the gift of solar spirituality. Instead, I have been given the gift of lunar spirituality, in which the divine light available to me waxes and wanes with the season. When I go out on my porch at night, the moon never looks the same way twice. Some nights it is as round and bright as a headlight; other nights it is thinner than the sickle hanging in my garage. Some nights it is high in the sky, and other nights low over the mountains. Some nights it is altogether gone, leaving a vast web of stars that are brighter in its absence. All in all, the moon is a truer mirror of my soul than the sun that looks the same way every day.”

“Even when light fades and darkness falls — as it does every single day, in every single life — God does not turn the world over to some other deity. Even when you cannot see where you are going and no one answers when you call, this is not sufficient proof that you are alone. … darkness is not dark to God; the night is as bright as the day.”

(from Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor, pp 7-9, 15-16)


Prayer

Creator God,
may we see You at work in the rising sun every day.
May we see You at work in the rolling fog or the cloudy skies.
May we see You at work in the rain that falls upon the earth.
May we see You at work in the setting sun and the rising moon,
the stars that shine, whether we can see them or not.
May we know always that You are doing something new,
every moment, every day, every year around the sun.
Great is Your Faithfulness, O God,
as You faithfully renew us every day.
Amen.

written by Rev Mindi, posted on her rev-o-lution.org blog


Digging deeper

See The Sun, the Moon, and Prayer where Vance Morgan explores solar vs lunar spirituality in more depth.

Quote: “If prayer is lunar rather than solar, then everything changes. Prayer becomes a matter of reflecting the divine light into the world in whatever way that light is shining on you and in you at the time. It is not up to me to generate the light; rather, it is up to me to reflect divine reality in ways that are unique to me and represent the seasons and cycles of my life.” (Vance Morgan)

Also check out this article by Moshe Benovitz on the Jewish ritual of blessing the new moon.

Revisit the blog post, In the school of prayer with St Francis.

(song by Donovan from the movie, Brother Sun, Sister Moon)

God loves stories


from North & South exhibition, Catharijneconvent, Utrecht  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

Thank you to all who subscribe and visit the site regularly. According to my stats, in 2019 we had twice as many views and visitors as last year – visitors from 100 countries around the world.

For this post – the last in 2019 – I’ve selected excerpts from a paintedprayerbook.com post from 2014 in which Jan Richardson reflects on the significance of story and Jesus as storyteller supreme.

 

Elie Wiesel says that God created us because God loves stories.

When Christ came (in the fullness of time, the story goes), he came as the Word made flesh. A story in motion. And he went into the world with stories on his lips, weaving them everywhere he went.

A sower went out to sow.
A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers.
There was a man who had two sons.

Jesus understood that in a world where it can be so difficult to know God, to know others, to know even ourselves, a story can offer a language, a doorway, a point of entry. He knew how a story can take us a little deeper into knowing, a little farther down the road in our journey of return.

What stories are you listening to? What stories are you telling? How do you attend to your own story? Where have you experienced being lost in a story, and being found? How might God be inviting you to look at your story with new eyes?
 


Blessing the Story

You might think
this blessing lives
in the story
that you can see,
that it has curled up
in a comfortable spot
on the surface
of the telling.

But this blessing lives
in the story beneath
the story.
It lives in the story
inside the story.
In the spaces
between.
In the edges,
the margins,
the mysterious gaps,
the enticing and
fertile emptiness.

This blessing
makes its home
within the layers.
This blessing is
doorway and portal,
passage and path.
It is more ancient
than imagining
and makes itself
ever new.

This blessing
is where the story
begins.

Jan Richardson

 
Source: paintedprayerbook.com
 


From the blog
Turn, pilgrim
3 Prayers for endings and beginnings
Theme: Do not lose heart [prayer sheet]
 

On pilgrimage


From my book shelf  …  links included below
 
 

Quotable quotes and a prayer from the To be a pilgrim workshop I led in Geneva recently.

 

People of all faiths seem to recognize pilgrimage as an essential spiritual practice. In researching WHY this should be the case, there seems to be very little complex theological reasoning involved. Pilgrimage, it seems … has to be walked, and experienced.
 
Some walk to escape, others walk towards. Some walk in companionship, others alone. Some always have an eye on a destination, others live for a far horizon. … We are all of us, sojourners. A long way from home.

 

For pilgrimage to be real it has to be a moving experience in more than simply a physical sense. … We do not merely clock up places we have been to and sights we have seen: we are also on a journey of being, an inward journey which cannot be easily catalogued or grasped but is a great adventure nonetheless.
~ David Adam, The Awesome Journey, p. 1

 

We recognise that we journey in hope; our travelling will be accompanied and celebratory; we pilgrim to Christ and to redemption in him; we will challenge each other in our discipleship and spiritual nurturing to press on with perseverance; we will learn from the wisdom of brothers and sisters down the ages and across all human divides.

 

On the journey of faith
Far I have come, far I must go.

 


A Pilgrim’s Prayer

Christ our Guide,
stay with us on our pilgrimage through life:
      when we falter, encourage us
      when we stumble, steady us
      and when we have fallen, pick us up.
Help us to become, step by step,
      more truly ourselves,
and remind us
      that you have travelled this way before us.
Amen

 
~ by Angela Ashwin, from The Book of a Thousand Prayers, #167
 


 
Book list
Finding our way again  by Brian McLaren
We make the road by walking  by Brian D. McLaren
A Pilgrim Way  by Ray Simpson
Pilgrimage of a soul  by Phileena Heuertz
The Awesome Journey  by David Adam
Ancient Paths  by David Robinson

In the school of prayer with Pádraig Ó Tuama


(Photo: Irene Bom)
 
 

From 2014 to 2019, Irish poet, Pádraig Ó Tuama, led the Corrymeela Community, Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organisation.

Drawing on the spiritual practices of the community, in 2017 he published Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community. Here are some excerpts on prayer from the Foreword, and a prayer celebrating the gentle gifts of morning.


Prayer is …

Prayer is a small fire lit to keep cold hands warm. Prayer is a practice that flourishes both with faith and doubt. Prayer is asking, and prayer is sitting. Prayer is the breath. Prayer is not an answer, always, because not all questions can be answered. (p. xi)

No prayer is perfect. There is no system of prayer that is the best. … Henri Nouwen said that the only way to pray is to pray; the only way to try is to try. So the only way to pray well is to pray regularly enough that it becomes a practice of encounter. (p. xii)

We turn to prayer in days of joy, and days where our world shows – again – that it is wrapped in the circle of conflict. We turn to form, we turn to old words because sometimes it is old words that hold the deepest comfort and the deepest challenge. … in a time of trauma, God is given a name by the traumatized. In a time of joy, God is named by the joy of our hearts. In a time of confession, God is named as light. In a time of rest, God is the soft dark that enfolds us. (p. xix)

Prayer, like poetry – like breath, like our own names – has a fundamental rhythm in our bodies. It changes, it adapts, … it sings, it swears, it is syncopated by the rhythm under the rhythm, the love underneath the love, the rhyme underneath the rhyme, the name underneath the name, the welcome underneath the welcome, the prayer beneath the prayer. (p. xx)

The world is big, and wide, and wild and wonderful and wicked, and our lives are murky, magnificent, malleable and full of meaning. Oremus*. Let us pray. (p. xx)

 
*Oremus: Latin for ‘Let us pray’
 

from Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community
by Pádraig Ó Tuama, p. ix-xx
 


A liturgy of the morning

There’s also a companion piece, A liturgy of the night (posted on 4 February 2020).

 
On the first morning God said: ‘Let there be birds.’ And God separated voice from voice; and in some voices, God put a song, and the song sang to the land, and to the light, and to the light on the land, and when the people heard it, the morning had begun. The first morning.
And God said that it was Good.

On the second morning God said, ‘There will be dreams from the night that will need the light of the morning.’ And so God put wisdom in the early hours. The second morning .
And God said that it was Good.

And on the third morning, God said: ‘Let there be a certain kind of light that can only be seen in the morning.’ And God created gold, and dew, and horizons, and hills in the distance, and faces that look different in the light of the morning, and things that look different in the light of the morning. The third morning.
And God said that it was Good.

And on the fourth morning, God said, ‘Sometimes the day will be long. Let there be warmth in the morning, let people sleep for some mornings, and let the rest of the morning be good.’ The fourth morning.
And God said that it was Good.

And on the fifth morning, God said: ‘There will be people who will rise early every morning, whose day will begin in the night, by the light of moon and stars; they will see the sun rise, these early risers.’ And God put a softness at the heart of the dawn. The fifth morning.
And God said that it was Good.

And on the sixth morning, God listened. And there were people working, and people struggling to get out of bed, and there were people making love and people making sandwiches. There were people dreading the day, and people glad that the night was over. And God hoped that they’d survive. And God shone light, and made clouds, and rain, and rainbows, and toast, and coffee, places to love the light and places to hide from the light. Small corners to accompany the lonely, the joyous, the needy and the needed. The sixth morning.
And God said that it was Good.

And on the last morning, God rested. And the rest was good. The rest was very good.
And God said that it was very Good.

 
from Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community
by Pádraig Ó Tuama, p. 65-6
 


Digging deeper …

 


 
From the blog
Prayer sheet: Called into community
In the school of prayer with the Celtic Saints
To Emmaus and back