Monday, January 10, 2011

Devotional reading 100111

Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. It is a blessing to have quiet time before the Lord and be ministered by the presence of the Holy Spirit. God cares about His children and wants to always nourish us like mother to a baby. And when we are contented with the fact that He is the Shepherd of our lives, we can rest to know that He will provide us with green pastures and still waters. As I meditated on Psalm 131 this morning, I was reminded of the importance of being as calm as a weaned child, “I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me” (Psalm 131:2). A weaned child is not restless and cry out for his or her own needs from time to time. A soul rests in the assurance of God’s love finds inner strength to deal with uncertainty of life and complexity in human relationship. A rested soul seeks not his or her needs being met, but how he or she can be blessing to others. Contemplative prayer is to focus on the inner voice of the Holy Spirit, who whispers His love to my soul from day to day.

It is easy enough to say that God is seeking us, and even to stress how central this understanding is to Christianity. But it is harder to realize that we have to prepare so that God can break through to us. Meditation is simply the way we prepare, setting up the conditions that can help to make this possible. It includes various practices, even quite diverse ones, all aimed at making experiences of God as available as possible…bat meditation does mean is a way for us to unlock the door and come out from the places where most of us have been hiding. It is the process of opening ourselves to the realm of nonphysical reality in which God can touch us far more directly than in the physical world. It is that kind of prayer in which we seek relationship with God, and in this sense meditation is the preparation and foundation for prayer.

In meditation, there is a fresh emphasis on prayer as one and learning what God wants of us become far more important than what we want of God. Yet the amazing thing is that when we pray in this way, we often receive better than we would have dared to ask on our own. This is also the way Jesus taught His followers to pray. In the Lord’s Prayer we are told to begin by speaking directly to the Father and hallowing His name, putting the first emphasis on meeting God and expressing appreciation for what we have found. We then direct our attention to His kingdom and His will, showing our readiness to relate to His ways and wishes. Only then do we go on to ask for ourselves.

Today most of us are so caught up in the outer, material world that we forget that there is a nonmaterial inner or spiritual realm of existence. Our task is to come to know that realm again, and to realize that in it one can find sustaining and fulfilling experiences of God that give direction to the whole of life. Unless there is some such reality that can be reached, how can prayer itself make much sense? Why pray, if one is only calling out blindly into the void! Yet through meditation and the images that are evoked, one can touch and come to know the reality of the Other who is actually there.

Yet the masters of the devotional life and the depth psychologists need each other. They have each discovered something of the reality of the human soul, and each discipline has something important to say to the other. There is a burning need for us to see meditation in this new light. So many modern Christians have trouble with praying because they do not see how it can make sense in this complex modem world. Some psychological thought has made the complexity more understandable for us. The work of C.G. Jung and his followers has led farther than that. Their thinking and practice have helped many people to become aware of a need for prayer today. When the discussion of prayer leaves their discoveries out, it cuts off much of the sophisticated reading public and these people have as much right to prayer as anyone.

One of the great weaknesses among even the most religious depth psychologists is simply that their findings have not been tempered with the experience of those men and women who have plunged deepest into their relationship with God. These psychologists have not grasped the range and depth and richness of that experience, and so they can offer guidance only part of the way toward it. They often do not realize how common these experiences are to the ordinary “normal” person. Then there are psycho- legists who mistrust the entire experience of prayer and religious meditation, and these psychologists leave a great gap just where most of us need some direction and assurances that the road ahead leads somewhere worthwhile.

On the other hand, devotional writings, even down to the present day, have often left much to be desired. Some manuals insist upon the idea that we cannot grow in relationship with God without developing contempt for our emotional lives, our bodies and the physical world in general. Many of the classical Western writers have neglected the immanence or ever-present quality of God and the ways of finding Him within this world as well as beyond it. The result has often been practices so ascetic, one-sided and rejective of the world that they even caused emotional disturbance in some followers. It is difficult for the even average reader, lay or clerical, to sift the wheat from the chaff in this writing, even though popular devotional works of the last fifty years have sometimes suggested practices quite foreign to the total message of Jesus of Nazareth. Through the best of psychological understanding, however, we can find balance in our devotional lives and a return to His wisdom and practical directions.

I agree with Kelsey that we need a balanced view in our understanding of our practice of meditation. After all, it is God who created within us a mind to interact with Him. This mind exists within our soul which can be analyzed by a psychological approach. Of course, an atheist psychologist will not be able to understand the dynamics that go on within our soul in terms of our interaction with the Deity, until they humble themselves to accept the reality of God’s presence in the life of His faithful.

With the presence of His love,

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