Monday, July 12, 2010

Prayer is Political

As Desmond Tutu is wont to say, prayer is political. "If governments knew how subversive is contemplative prayer, they would ban it." As the church banned it at the Council of Constance. (see "Jesus in the Balance" posted February and March in this blog). The degree to which a person is committed to control is the degree to which s/he will be threatened by contemplative prayer. All one has to do is to sit in silent prayer, open, empty, for someone whose life depends on control to freak out. Prayer cannot be controlled even by the one who prays, nor should the attempt be made. Prayer tears a hole in the membrane of the universe in which we tend to encapsulate ourselves. Anything can happen. Contemplative prayer played a large role in defeating apartheid.

To commit to prayer raises questions, hard questions, for oneself, for those around one. Just to make the effort—never mind how one may feel one fails—is shattering to everyday perceptions, values and norms, one's own and that of others. To sit in silence is to invite all sorts of projections, some of them good, some of them bad. There is holy envy, there is holy jealousy as well as destructive envy, destructive jealousy. Silent prayer rejects noise, manipulation, consuming, planning, sorting, evaluating; all emotions, ideas, thoughts, however trivial or seemingly significant, must be let go into the silence. How could we not be threatened—the pray-er as well as those in whose context the prayer is undertaken, no matter how hidden it might be. To pray thus is the giving up of one's life to gain it, the basic paradox of religion.

One does not sit in silent prayer to make a political point, however. This is not what Archbishop Tutu means. It is simply the willingness to try, to stake one's life on "the things not seen" which some people interpret as provocative.


Anonymous Gloria Fogler-Mancini said...

Irrelevant comment: We were friends in NYC long ago and took photos together. I still take pictures. We went by the Hop Kiln a few days ago and found nothing of you or Marty Griffin there. Hope all is well. Gloria Fogler-Mancini

8:27 pm, July 19, 2010  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Gloria, delighted to hear from you. Please send me your email (I moderate everything; it won't be published) so we can get together. I'm not far away. Love.

9:50 pm, July 19, 2010  

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