Pastor’s Blog May 2020

May 3, 2020 by

Dear Friends in Christ,

During the current pandemic and our extended time staying home, we have an opportunity to deepen our study and practice of prayer. Two months ago, we began to discuss an ancient way of prayer called kataphatic prayer, or “calling God by name;” and you may wish to go back and review that March article. Sometimes the good things we believe in our heads about God, such as how much God loves us, we cannot fully believe in our hearts, perhaps due to early childhood conclusions that we are not loveable, etc. We think we know who God is, and yet much of what we actually believe in our hearts about God stands in the way of our prayer and life.1 At such times, using the same old name for God in our prayer that we’ve always used can be part of what causes us to stay stuck in this conflict. Some of the ancient Christians taught that one way out of this dilemma is to learn to call God by appropriate new names. Back in March, we learned a way Gregory of Nyssa went about this. This month, we will look at another way. When we are facing a specific problem, one way to work on learning what the names of God in our hearts are, is to spend some time in introspection, trusting in God’s great love for each one of us. Then follow the suggestion made by Evagrius Ponticus: “’Ask Christ for an explanation’”2 — of what is causing your inner conflict between what you feel and what you think about God’s true nature. Take what you find once you look inside yourself and use that to form a question. Take that question with you into your prayer time each day for a while. For example, you might ask, “Why do I let fear run so much of my life?” or “Why is there so much suffering when you are supposed to be so loving?” or “Why am I so angry all the time?” Share with God all that you need to say; how confused or angry or hurt you are and why. But then leave a lot of silent time for simply being present with God. You will have other thoughts, but do not pay them a lot of attention. Instead, Evagrius says, be resolute. Stay focused on your original question. After a while, you may find that new images or new ways of seeing things will arise in your mind that you can think through later, after your prayer. Practicing this way of prayer regularly can help you gain new perspectives on your questions and encounter new aspects of God. We will talk more about kataphatic prayer next month. Take good care, and stay safe!

Blessings in your prayer practice,

Betsy Caudill

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