In April I was invited to participate in a panel discussion on prayer and meditation at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts. As part of the preparation I wrote a brief description of my understanding of prayer:
Prayer is an intentional act of connecting with God in a way that both changes us – gradually decreases the hold of the ego and helps us see God in the world – and connects us more closely with God and other humans.
Prayer is not, in my understanding, trying to convince a reluctant God to do something God isn’t already doing. God is always speaking to the better angels of our nature. God is always pouring God’s love and grace into our lives and calling us join God in loving the world into wholeness. We need to tune our antenna so we can receive this grace and love. We need to change the way we see the world so we understand how deeply we are connected to God and one another. Prayer is a vehicle for this. Prayer is not asking for little red wagons; God doesn’t give little red wagons. God is always giving us God’s spirit. God gives life, and hope and peace and calls us to care and support one another.
That said, I also believe that prayer for healing is efficacious. Not because we are convincing God to do something (heal someone) that God isn’t already doing. Rather there is some mysterious way the energy of our prayer contributes to the energy of healing. And praying for other people is an act of solidarity, where we enter into the suffering of others. And in some way my engineer brain cannot fathom, that matters.
For me, meditation is a form of prayer in which we rest in the presence of God. It is a practice of turning from our distracted, monkey mind, to the quiet presence of God. While it may contain words, such as a mantra, the purpose of the words is to call the self back into a state of resting in God. Meditation is a particular contemplative quiet form of prayer which has the goal of resting in the quiet presence of God beneath words or thoughts.
We were created for a joy that comes from living in holy communion with God and one another.
We don't live in Joy because we are paralyzed by fear, judgement, insecurity, addictions and general bone-headedness.
Jesus came to fix that, to show us the way back to Joy, to reconcile us to God and one another.
But how? How does Christ reconcile us? In Lent of 2017, the clergy of Trinity Cathedral explored the Episcopal Baptismal Covenant in a series of five sermons. The third sermon was on the question, "Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ." I used the opportunity to preach a sermon on the good news of the Crucifixion and then teach a class on a broader understanding of how God is in Christ reconciling us. Here is the sermon and the class: