In recent days I’ve been challenged on the subject of prayer. After a year away from church and a bit of a detoxifying of sorts from church culture, I realised that I had ‘lost’ the ability I once had to pray. I guess by this I mean being able to articulate my thoughts towards God in my own words, and also losing any sense of what prayer actually does.
Those of you who have followed my journey will know that I’ve been influenced by the thoughts of the mystic St John of the Cross, who speaks of the dark night of the soul, a place of emptiness, of loneliness and separation from God where our best efforts to connect fail. I’ve also recently learnt of the apophatic theology movement, and identify with much of what it has to say about how we understand (or not) God.
All this is to say that I have wrestled with this. I come from a Christian tradition of holiness that values an active and participative prayer life, where we lift all our concerns to God, publicly and privately, but somehow, this ground to a halt as I grew disillusioned with my experience of it. Words of empty meaning have stopped, words that once flowed easily when behind often lay great doubt.
I know what prayer is, what it’s meant to be. I know how different traditions view it. I’ve experimented with liturgical approaches, trying to use someone else’s words, words almost as old as the church sometimes to keep things going when my own words have dried up. I know the importance of praying without ceasing, of persistence through the dry times. I know the value of doing this in community – but that at its heart prayer is an intensely personal and private thing.
I’m not demanding an answer, or angry with God for not answering prayers previously spoken. I just want to be honest. Honest is matching what I believe with what I say with what I do. Living Kingdom, praying Kingdom. I suppose the reality is that I feel disconnected, and know deeply the need to do something about this, as if something is…missing. Is it like an addict desperate for a ‘hit’ of something from my past, or something much more profound moving deep within?
I value rhythm – maybe this be the start of a new rhythm that reconnects me.