on prayer

I'm reading one of those perfectly timed books right now, Let in the Light: Facing the hard stuff with hope by Patricia H. Livingston. She has good things to say in an easy to read style, particularly about the importance of reframing our responses to difficult things in positive ways.

I say it's "perfectly timed" in that I literally stumbled upon it when I was cleaning up the library, just hours after a session with my spiritual director where we talked about many of the same themes. Light has also been a theme in my prayer lately. I find that such "coincidences" often happen in life and it's best to go with the flow and not try to figure them out.

She's got a wonderful perspective on prayer that I thought I'd share with my bloggy friends. First she quotes a Dutch Jesuit named Peter van Breemen from The God Who Won't Let Go:
When prayer seems to be lacking in fruitfulness, usually the reason is that we have tried to do too much. Years of experience have convinced me of this. 'Doing too much' might mean that we are straining unwittingly trying to force an experience of God. This only makes us tense, and that tension can block the gentle movement of God. ... Resist the inclination to make prayer productive.
She then writes:
I laughed out loud when I read that. ... My favorite way to pray is having coffee with God early in the morning, looking out at the water of Tampa Bay. Every day the sky and wind and water are a canvas communicating God's love. ... After the coffee, sometimes I read the scripture of the day or a little of another book. Sometimes I mediate with a mantra. On different days I am drawn to different ways. The key for me is not to strain, to follow what is appealing, to pay attention to what communicates God's loving presence. [emphasis added]
Do you ever read something that you've thought or that you could have written? The part I've bolded apart sums up my own approach to prayer these days. I take it much less "seriously," and yet it is all the richer. One of those paradoxes of the spiritual life I think.

And for the record, I often have coffee with God on our front porch to watch the birds and the occasional turkey or yesterday, a deer!


srop said...

Sounds like sound advice to me. Sometimes sitting. Sometimes sitting with coffee. Sometimes music. Sometimes silence. Thank you for your musings. Pat

Regina Clare Jane said...

This really resonated with me today as I just came back from my first visit with my spiritual advisor and she mentioned some different ways to pray other than what I had and have been doing for most of my life... they had become a habit for me, but yet I was not progressing in my prayer life.
It was refreshing to be given permission, as it were, to pray in different and unexpected ways! I was always trying too hard!

Barbara said...

I call it watching the squirrels with Jesus... All that matters is Presence. Nowadays my byword is if I can't play, I can't pray. Too bad we get so many "methods" taught us when sitting down and having a soul chat with a Friend is all there is to it.

Anonymous said...

There's also something to be said for commitment to a spiritual practice each day -- being in it for the long haul, allowing God to soeak in God's own way and time.

Susan Rose, CSJP said...

To my last anonymous commenter - absolutely! I didn't mean to imply that a daily committment wasn't important. It's just that in the past I was so hard on myself that I had to pray a particular way even if it was like pushing a rock up hill. The most important thing I think is showing up and opening yourself to God's love.

To the rest of my commenters - thanks! You too have good things to say. We're all on this journey together!

Tess said...

Sometimes reading just one line helps: resist the temptation to make prayer productive. That's so me!

Tom Gibbons said...

"When prayer seems to be lacking in fruitfulness, usually the reason is that we have tried to do too much."

I can definitely relate to that. I need to draw more.

xsquared said...

I'm with Tess - I definitely need to "resist the temptation to make prayer productive" - I think I really needed to hear that today.

Stephen Pitts said...

I have had a similar experience with spiritual reading. Twice this semester I have just gone through the library and picked interesting-looking books before heading out on a two-month experiment. I have ended up reading them at exactly the time that I have needed them in my spiritual life.

Thanks for continuing to share your journey with us. The words on prayer were certainly inspiring to all of us (on a path to being) in apostolic religious orders.

Stephen, nSJ