Pastor’s Blog Oct. 2020

Oct 11, 2020 by

We have been examining the first part of an ancient tradition of prayer that made a distinction between two ways of knowing and experiencing God in prayer. In some recent newsletters, we have looked at kataphatic prayer, or “calling God by name,” in which we reflect on a biblical name or image of God to learn more about God and ourselves. This month, we will look more closely at the other way of prayer, known as apophatic prayer, or “the way of unknowing.” Both of these ways of prayer are essential to our spiritual growth, and both involve silence. In kataphatic prayer, we engage in silence in order to wait and listen for what God may tell us through the Scripture and our own hearts. Apophatic prayer, however, involves the kind of silence we experience when we are sitting with a person we know very well and love dearly. 1) We are not expecting anything. We are simply being deeply present with God. The Eastern tradition of the ancient church held that we relate to God in two ways: by what we know (i.e., by “naming God,”) and by what we cannot know. 2) God is at once knowable and unknowable. God has revealed God’s self to us in many ways, including through Scripture and in Jesus Christ. Yet, no matter how many names we may use to try to name God, our knowledge of God can never exhaust who God is. God is ultimately Mystery, beyond us, and never to be controlled by us. 3) Sometimes we need to talk with a spouse or close friend. At other times, what we most need is to simply sit together in silence; words would detract from the depth of our time together. The latter is the way apophatic prayer is. Each of us needs to call God by name, get to know who God is for us, and talk with God. But each of us also needs to spend the other kind of silent time with God, without words, expectations, or requests; simply delighting in and basking in God’s presence.

Autumn blessings to you,

Betsy Caudill

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