Recently during a group discussion I mentioned a line from the Poet Rumi that goes “A dog’s moan is his connection.” I can picture a dog, lying on the floor, a plaintive whimper escaping his lips as he watches the door, waiting for his master to return. It is not a rehearsed expression, but one that arises spontaneously from a heart enlarged by love and longing.
A member of the group related how she had once “forgotten how to pray” during the serious illness of a loved one and just talked to God in a direct manner, unrehearsed yet profoundly felt. Perhaps in times when familiar, prescribed methods of prayer escape us, a more intimate way of going to God can occur to us, one that arises from the very depths of our being.
Theophan the Recluse, a spiritual guide of nineteenth-century Russia has written about the relationship of man to God during prayer. I found one of his comments particularly insightful. It regarded the position of the body in prayer. As a boy I was taught that one should kneel to show humility, yet Theophan said that it was not the position of the body that mattered, but the inclination of the heart. “A proud man may kneel, but only the devoted heart can incline itself towards God.”
I sometimes struggle to find the “right” words to say rather than those which on my lips and in my heart. I have this idea that my message must be carefully crafted, such as those in the Psalms, the Book of Common Prayer, and the writings of the Fathers and Mothers of the Christian Church. Otherwise, I fear my offering might not be worthy.
My hesitancy about saying the ”wrong” words, using the “wrong formula” or not doing it “right” may arise from my early experience with a more fundamental teaching where matters were always “right” and “wrong”. Study of the history of the Christian Church in year 3 of EfM (Education for Ministry) has shown me a myriad of conflicts that have occurred over the need to differentiate between the two. I would like to think that with what I have learned I have become more willing to live with questions and less obsessed with answers. I have become more open to not having to know and more willing to try to understand.
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