Loving God

So much of what is called ‘worship’ in the Christian community these days would be better described as a ‘God Fan Club.’ Our songs reflect this: God is Great, Great and Mighty, You Are Good, You Are Magnificent, There is None Like You, etc. Prayers have a  general sense of telling God how wonderful God is and how ‘blessed’ we are that God is our God.

We have put our emphasis on trying to love God, which is probably a good way to start—although we do not have a clue how to do that. What I consistently find in the mystics is an overwhelming experience of how God has loved them. God is the initiator, God is the doer, God is the one who seduces them. All we can do is respond in kind, and exactly as Meister Eckhart said, “The love by which we love God is the very same love with which God has first loved us.”

The mystics’ overwhelming experience is of a full body blow of the Divine loving them, the Divine radically accepting them. The rest of their life they are trying to verbalize that, and invariably finding ways to give that love back through forms of service, compassion and non-stop worship. This is not to earn God’s love; it’s always and only to return God’s love! “Love is repaid by love alone,” as my father, Francis said. – Richard Rohr, adapted from Following the Mystics through the Narrow Gate

That being said, I wonder if God is really at all impressed by how much we say (or sing) ‘I love you, Lord,’ and how creatively we express that. Perhaps God would be worshiped best by showing how much we love God–and return that love– in our humble, unnoticed and unlauded service to those who bear God’s image.

See also my earlier post, An Insecure God?

Praying with Eyes Open (Part 3)

It seems to me that the automatic tendency of the Evangelical Christian to bow the head and close the eyes when praying could be for some the same as a Catholic Christian making the sign of the cross or the Hindu bringing her hands together. It has simply become a ritual that holds significance to the person engaged in the practice.

In studying this ritual, I often come across the word humility used in conjunction with submission. When we bow our heads and close our eyes we show that we are submitting ourselves in humility to God. While not directly commanded in Scripture, the example of the prayer of Jesus (falling on the ground) and the tax collector (who would not lift his eyes toward heaven) bear honourable mention. Humility and surrender to God certainly ought to be central in our mind as we engage in prayer.

But can we engage in the practice of prayer apart from the ritual?

The obvious answer is “Yes.” But I feel the answer lies more in our ability as followers of God to meet with God in a other ways that are not dictated by our faith tradition. Are we able to enlarge our understanding of God by mindfully engaging in prayer in a way that appears to “break the rules”? Can God use this openness to deepen our faith and increase our connection with life itself? Could this be partly what St Paul had in mind when he instructed the church to “Pray without ceasing”?

The God of ‘Yes’

This is a prayer that was read at our staff prayer this morning. Marianne, our College’s Director of Spirituality, wrote it (actually adapted it from a meditation that meant a lot to her). I thought it was worth sharing.

When the ads offer us everything
If only we have the money
Lord, help us to say ‘No.’
When you offer us everything
If only we do without,
Lord, help us to say ‘Yes.’

When the easier way to succeed
Means we lose our integrity,
Lord, help us to say ‘No.’
When the harder way to succeed
Means we let go of our pride,
Lord, help us to say ‘Yes.’

When people want us to conform
And avoid creating a disturbance,
Lord, help us to say ‘No.’
When you want us to rebel
And bring about change,
Lord, help us to say ‘Yes.’

When our friends don’t respect
What we count as important,
Lord, help us to say ‘No.’
When you cakll us your children
With Jesus, our brother,
Lord, help us to say ‘Yes.’

When we feel like giving in
Just to save face,
Lord, help us to say ‘No.’
When you promise to be with us
Whatever may happen,
Lord, help us to say ‘Yes.’

You, O Lord, are the God of possibilities,
The God of change,
The God of ‘Yes.’
Let me be your ‘Yes’ in the world today.