Monday, May 19, 2008

IV The Space of Prayer

After a time, the practice of bearing our concerns—and our joy—into the place of silence becomes habitual. We learn that the most precious gift that we have to offer to anyone, in person or in prayer—one which can be given only in secret—is a space where they too can enter silence, where they can dwell without pressure or manipulation to receive the unmediated transfiguration of God’s love.

We come to realize that in this spacious silence the whole of creation is present and that we are given the eyes of compassion. We realize that every moment is prayer, life is prayer, and it is lived from the wellspring of this silence.

This sort of prayer is only preparation, however. Real prayer, says Isaac of Nineveh, begins when we are no longer aware that we are praying at all.

"As soon as the mind has crossed this boundary of pure prayer and proceeded inwards, it possesses neither prayer, nor emotions, nor tears, nor authority, nor freedom, nor petitions, nor desire, nor longing after any of these things which are hoped for in this world or in the world to come. . . . From here onwards the mind has ceased from prayer; there is sight, but the mind does not actually pray." [12]

The deepest form of intercession is simply to open ourselves and offer God the life given us, wordlessly, in silence and stillness, in adoration, not knowing and not wanting to know for what purposes our life might be used, or what consequences, if any, there might be. [13]

Intercession is making a space for something to be worked out, we know not how. It is tearing a hole in the imprisoning membrane of our thoughts and fears so that the rain of salvation may fall on us (Isa. 45:8). And when we have been denuded of our ideas of how the world should be, or even what the problem is, and enter this space of intercession, we find to our wonder and joy that we are wearing the robe of glory of our original nakedness, signing the world with the full potential of Eden. In this vast and fertile wilderness, we offer the life we share with God, and we wait on that Loving-kindness in a silence that is both end and beginning, our source and our home.


[12] Ross, The Fountain and the Furnace, 251, trans Sebastian Brock. The context may be found in The Ascetical Homilies of Isaac the Syrian, tr. Dana Miller (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1984).

[13] Buddhists facilitate this sort of prayer by the practice of tonglen, breathing in darkness and breathing out light on the world. See The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993).


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