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Published on Thursday, October 19, 2017

Essence of Prayer

Prayer means different things to different spiritual leaders. Extreme leadership goes beyond the wordiness of constant leaders, and the self-awareness of organic leaders, to the essence of prayer as sighs and selflessness.

There is a pond on our property that fills with twigs and leaves and walnuts in the fall. I often meditate there.


Prayer is like looking into a pond suddenly stilled. Slowly watch the sediment and detritus of life settle to the bottom. The impatient try to see God too soon. They cannot wait long enough for the sediment of life to settle, and so their experience of God is still polluted and distorted by the world. But if you have patience to wait (which is extraordinarily difficult for me), the sediment is gone and only water remains.


What do you see? Well nothing! The water is transparent, pure, and clear. Now you see the sediment of life at a distance from above; a new perspective that is no longer in two dimensions but three dimensions. You are “above” life, seeing it dispassionately, detached from who you really are. You live, but for a moment at least you live without living.


How then do you see the water if it is transparent? You know it is there, but cannot see it directly. What you can see are ripples and reflections.


You “see” water as even the tiniest thing falls into it. You see ripples. At first the impact of life distorts the water, but soon the stability and silence of the water absorbs the disturbance and interruption, and all is calm again. If the object is solid (of the world), it will be like sediment and eventually sink to the bottom.


But if the object is liquid, it will be absorbed into the water, unite with the water, and be water. The most profound ripples in water are tears. A tear drop falls into the water and immediately disappears, absorbed into the water. The tears of humankind are of the same nature as the spirit of God. The liquidity of human life is the same substance as the liquidity of Spirit. “Seeing” is immersion.


You also see water by reflections of light. The sun shines, and rays of light are reflected off the surface of the water and dazzle your eyes. Interestingly, the reflected light is most dazzling in moments when the water is disturbed rather than moments when the water is still. The water is not visible unless it reflects the sun; and the reflection is most visible when water is disturbed by the world. We know the sun is shining because the light beams dazzle our eyes. We cannot see the water, and we dare not look directly at the sun. Only the reflected sunbeams confirm that both water and sun are real. And reflection only happens when there are ripples. And the most profound ripples are the tears of the watcher.


The essence of prayer is that it reveals the trinity of divine experience. The water is Spirit. The sun is the God above gods. The world is what sinks and drops away. And the dazzling light is the Son, who is the “face” of God.  We “see” the Spirit, and we “see” God, only through the incarnation that is the Son.

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