My reflection is sometimes mixed. On the one hand, the more traditional and conservative side of my personality recalls the words of Jesus, criticizing the Jewish leaders for their love of a public display of prayer on street corners followed by his admonition to seek the privacy of one’s own private chamber to pray to God in secret. This dictum by Jesus would have appeared to have shaped the Christian tradition with the most obvious examples of the meditative contemplative orientated disciple seeking the figurative closed closet of desert or cloistered community.
Christians have generally pursued their calling in the market place, field or factory with a less than strong attachment to this life of meditation.
From the more progressive side of my personality I have responded more favourably to the public display of the above-mentioned meditation in the gardens. I see the spirit having moved over the face of the mythical ocean waters, carrying a great gift from the Asian religious traditions to the western world, with a reminder of this great tradition of silent prayer which seems to have been deeply buried within the hidden closets of Christian institutionalism.
Its visibility in the western world has brought a new interest in this spiritual pursuit for countless people both within and beyond the membership of the church. Possibly it has become the doorway for many for whom the doors of the church are seemingly jammed shut. It has become a primary point of contact for many to engage with the spiritual reality of life.
Together the two traditions, the East and West, can be seen to now encourage a more accessible and comprehensive approach and I would argue a greater means of awakening to the reality of life as spirit. The aspirational approach of the West and the common accessibility of the East provide a diversity that enhances the reality of the sacred in the midst of all.
In Jesus day his own practice of rising early in the morning and venturing into a quiet place to pray confronted the disciples it would seem with their own inadequacy toward the way of prayer. But their hearts did hunger for something more.They asked Jesus to teach them the way of prayer.
The gospel today addresses a few issues of this great and vital journey of life. We could say Jesus gives them the ABC of prayer. He makes two major points from three points.
He introduces a simple prayer that has a potent message. We call it the Lord’s prayer.
It’s from this that the first really important point is established. Prayer is grounded in the whole experience of life. It involves the entire way we live our life, from gratitude for the material world we live in, such as our daily bread, to willingness to take our relationships importantly, such as forgiving of sins.
“Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” …it respects that there are many trials and challenges that we are to face as we exercise our will. “Lead us not into temptation”…It addresses our vital moral disposition by asking to avoid evil and its commitment to destructive behaviour to other humans and ultimately God. “But deliver us from evil”…It’s a very succinct outline of the basic dynamics of life.
Yes in its simplest form we utter prayers in our mind, but such thoughts must be far more. They must be grounded in the fullness of that same spirit of life.
This prayer is followed by two specific examples that emphasize that prayer arises out of an understanding of the primary relational dynamic of the heart of life, that which we refer to as God. It tells us of a late night visitor to his neighbour in search of some basic provisions. Despite the inconvenience the request will not fall on deaf ears. The second illustration speaks of someone asking for a fish will not be given a scorpion instead. A person’s need is taken seriously by God as our heavenly parent.
God is not a trickster, or uncaring. God’s vision is for the ultimate good of creation.
It’s important to understand these examples are to be set within a context and that context is spirit. The passage reads …how much will the heavenly father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. Life is spirit, prayer is our entry into this quality of experience. We can trust that the spirit of God is the ultimate good will of life.
Placed in the heart of these examples is a conclusion. It invites us to approach life with the most positive attitude to life…
“Seek and you will find, Knock and the door will be opened.”…It is assuring us that grounded in life as spirit it merely needs people to trust it is the ultimate source of life
Prayer has been fundamental to humanity throughout history. One’s sense is that modern mankind has ignored it for far too long. It would seem that the Eastern faith traditions are re-energizing it’s importance in life. Maybe those people in the park have something to teach us.
Lord teach us to pray