Day 40 Grace
Everything is gift. Prayer is gift. The 13th Century spiritual teacher, Meister Eckhart, said that if the only prayer we ever said was “Thank You” it would suffice. Prayer is a gift that flows through our lives, through our world; we don’t improve it with elegant words or prayer techniques, neither do we damage it by neglect or our struggles to pray. It is a gift given in our lives, all we need to do is say “thank you.” I read recently in a book on prayer that God’s gift of prayer is freely given and all that God asks in return is for us to embrace that gift as best we can. Actually, I don’t believe that is quite right, God’s gift is freely given and asks nothing in return. That is what grace is. I have no doubt that God longs for us to embrace the gift and become more deeply aware of its flow in our lives, but does not demand it, and thinks nothing less of us if we don’t.
God gently pursues us like a lover. Some of the greatest writers on prayer in the Christian tradition regularly describe God as a lover that flirts with us, lavishes us with gifts, and woos us. That is a God I can relate to. For far too long we have had a strange image of God as a stern father or head teacher making demands upon us, marking our efforts, keeping a log. Such a God is one that you tend to try and obey, and maybe please, rather than a God you grow to love and long for. God as lover is a God we can have a relationship with, based not upon demands and rules, but on love. Jesus also summed up our relationship with God in one word. Love.
Prayer is a gift of love from the Lover of the Universe. It is a gift freely given again and again and again. It is a gift that makes no demands of us, a gift that asks nothing in return; but a gift that sets out to woo us and invite us into its flow, into a beautiful relationship with God, with each other, with life.
There are many ways to respond to God’s grace, and God does not have a grading system for how eloquent or how long that response is. Prayer is not an exam we have to pass, simply a stream of love to delight in. Praying a mantra is a simple way to respond to God’s wooing in life, and to become more and more aware of the Immense Loving Presence in everything we are, and everything we do and experience.
You are God’s Prayer.
You are being Prayed,
Into each moment;
Each second, each minute, each hour.
Into days, weeks, months, years.
You are God’s Prayer.
You are being Prayed,
Through all of life’s circumstances:
Joys, hurts, hopes, fears.
You will be Prayed into death
Into all that will be
You are God’s Prayer
Arising from, returning to,
The depths of Eternal Love.
Ah, grace. It is all grace. If only we could just let go and truly leave it all with God. It is a lovely thought, but another part of us resists it, because we like to be in control when it comes down to it. It is why perhaps the most important examples of prayer come right at the beginning and at the end of Jesus’ life. At its beginning, at its conception, there is the prayer of Mary “Be it unto me according to thy word”; and at its end is Jesus’ own prayer in Gethsemane “Not my will, but thy will be done.” These prayers are both prayers of total submission to the grace of God; they are prayers of complete trust.
Another of my favourite saints, (I seem to have so many!) is Hildegard of Bingen. Hildegard lived in the 12th Century and she was a Benedictine Abbess but also a composer of sublime music, a writer, a healer, and visionary. I love the music she composed, and one of my favourite cd’s is called: “A Feather on the Breath of God” and is named after one of her sayings. She wrote that we should seek to become that which we are, which is a feather on the breath of God. What a beautiful image! And how apt when it comes to meditation. In meditative prayer we are seeking to become a feather on the breath of God; to let go of everything and float as light as a feather on God’s breath, God’s love and grace. It is all about learning to let go, and let God. My O my, that is a long process! But that’s ok. God is patient, and asks us to be patient with ourselves; and to slowly but surely allow ourselves to become a feather on God’s breath.
We can begin by repeating our mantra gently, as if it is a feather on our own breath; and, as we breathe in and out, slowly allow it to become a feather on God’s breath. To allow our breathing to merge into God’s breathing and become one.