By Terry Shea
September 2, 2016
Posted In: Spiritual Wellness, White Rock
The spiritual practice known variously as affirmative prayer, conscious intention, and Spiritual Mind Treatment is something that I should know as much or more about as anyone given that I’ve spent a good part of my life living formal prayer and the spaces in between. Monks traditionally engage in an activity called Opus Dei. Before this phrase acquired the dubious right wing connotation that it has today, St Benedict referred to this “work of God” as the real work of monks, that with which they would occupy themselves chiefly during their waking hours. He was speaking of the Divine Office, the communal prayer of the monastery where the brothers assemble to chant the psalms, listen to inspiring words and pray silently together.
In fact, monks pray seven times per day between rising sometimes at 3 or 4 in the morning and retiring for the night a little after sunset. Though these canonical hours are far more than the 15 minutes that Dr. Holmes alludes to in the quote above, the principle he was speaking to remains valid.
It’s for this reason that monks developed other forms of prayer that kept the mind focused but allowed them to work. One of the most famous of these is the “Jesus Prayer. I encountered this prayer when I was a teenager in reading “Franny and Zooey” by JD Salinger, famous for “The Catcher in the Rye”.
The point of the Jesus Prayer, Franny takes from the religious “Russian Pilgrim” books. By incessantly praying to Jesus, the person who prays is awakened to his “Christ-Consciousness,” and in Zooey’s words, can see God. What Franny realizes, only at the end of the novel thanks to Zooey’s wisdom, is that not only does one unite with Jesus through the prayer, but more importantly with all humanity, since everyone is the Christ within him or herself. The Jesus Prayer has more to do with love than with religion, and Paul’s advice to the Thessalonians to pray without ceasing spans all religions. I practiced the Jesus prayer for many years both in the monastery and afterwards. I even practiced it as a student of Zen. It is precisely the practice Ernest was referring to when he said we must live the life between our prayers in constant communion with the Truth.
As we prepare to celebrate the achievement of our practitioners and their ongoing commitment to this community to know the Truth and live it fully on our behalf, I think there is no better time than this to look at how our adherence to the truth of how our life is showing up in our physical health, our connection to one another, our prosperity, and our connection to that deep Self that really is our life.
Over the next 5 weeks and culminating in the Induction/Investiture of our 5 newest Practitioners, we will look at how prayer changes nothing in that which we call God, but changes everything in the person praying. We live and move and have our being in God, as Paul said to the Greeks in Acts (Chapter 17). We have our being in a Sacred Continuum, an unbroken and inseparable Wholiness that has no beginning and no end; no pause and no disconnect, and where there are no separate parts.
As Franny realized, our true nature as human beings is to be connected not only to one another, as hard as that is, but to be connected to all life in all of its forms and to cherish that connection. Let’s learn together over the next month to truly know our relationship to the Presence in which we live and move and have our being and to recognize the power in our word (and thought) in every moment.