...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 3:43 PM [+]
Last night at Men's Fellowship we watched a recording of a sermon delivered by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware at SPU on the topic: “What is Prayer?” You can watch it HERE.
For most of us who have been Orthodox for awhile, there is nothing terribly new to be found here – at least not overtly. The Metropolitan is clearly introducing to a group of predominantly non-Orthodox listeners, some of the basic notions of prayer as discerned by the Eastern Fathers. Naturally, the “Jesus Prayer” plays a significant role in this introduction. But despite what might be seen as the simpleness with which this topic is approached, sometimes it behooves us to review some of these “basics.” We might, with our now longer period of experience within the Church, come away with some new insights. And if not, surely we'll come away with some much needed remembrance. And if your mind is similar to mine, this makes it a worth while time investment Either way, I am personally by no means ready for meat...I'm still very much drinking baby's milk. So...
Silence will inevitably come up whenever one discusses the topic of prayer, and sure enough it did. In his full, rich, and perhaps trademarked Oxfordian British voice, the Metropolitan asks: “But what do we mean when we speak of 'silence'?” Well the answer according to the Fathers is extracted from the word of the Psalmist who wrote: “Be still and know that I am God.” Put simply, real silence is God Awareness. Any other silence is likely just the bobbing of one's head to the sound of their inner iPOD.
Now I was particularly struck when he paired this notion of silence with St. Paul's admonition that we should “Pray without ceasing.” Suddenly, the Metropolitan's opening statement that we should not think of ourselves as having a separate and packaged “prayer life”, but that we should actually have a life that IS prayer, began to make more sense. The key is God Awareness.
Fixed times of prayer may be seen as highly focused periods of God awareness. In a story related by the Metropolitan, a man says, in order to explain that his frequent times of prayer were not indicative of his need to ask from God numerous things, that his frequent prayers were really just a time in which: “I sit and look at God. And God sits and looks at me.” So while fixed periods of prayer are intended to REALLY awaken ourselves to God's reality, we must strive to change our minds and our perceptions to see that God truly is “everywhere present and fillest all things.” We must start by making a real and unbiased intellectual assent to this idea. GOD IS HERE...right now...everywhere...in JUST as real a way as He is when we stand in the modst of the heavenly worship of Divine Liturgy. He is in my children, He is in the wood I am splitting, He is in the midst of lab meetings in which coworkers are annoying me to no end, He is in this van, He is in whatever room you might be in now reading this, and He is even in your computer. He is the very air we breath! No matter the situation, no matter the time, no matter the state of our being we MUST strive to keep our minds open to the reality of God's presence. That small step, I think, will go a very long way to changing our hearts and our wills in a huge way.
Small step though it may seem to be, it is not an easy step. As I look at my own life I can see that I rarely ponder God's reality in my day to day life. Sure, when there is great drama we can easily look to God, but in the monotony of our everyday existence, it can be very difficult. In fact, I can now see that God Awareness plays very little role in my life. Yes, I have certain beliefs in doctrines and moral values that tend to be at the forefront of my mind, but these are not so much hinged on my ever present relationship with God as they should be! Everyone has a worldview, ours as Christians should be absolutely anchored on the Reality of God's presence in this world. Manage this, and I think we will be on our way to acquiring inner peace and stillness and soberness that will afford us the ability to manifest the love of God to the world around us.