“The way we
know God is through God’s self disclosure, and the medium of that self
disclosure is prayer” ~Urban Holmes, History of Christian Spirituality
An ongoing discussion among church people: How do we bring experience of God to our congregation? Lots of suggestions for sermons and teaching (all good left brain approaches)...here is the answer! -"When religion does not give people an inner life or a real prayer life, it is missing its primary vocation." Thank you Fr Richard Rohr - Breathing Underwater!
Church, teach your people to pray....teach that prayer is not all one way and that there is a developmental/maturational progression of one's prayer life. In the same way as exercise for the body, or math for the intellect, prayer is the growing medium for the spirit.
Here is a very simplified explanation. Humans should be a balance of left brain rational/intellectual and right brain creative/experiential. We in the West are way biased to the left brain side. We think we can rationalize and
compartmentalize everything. But still we yearn, and long for, and sense that God is among us, within us...that there is "meaning" to all of this! This "feeling" is realized through right brain experience. Left brain
sees matter. Right brain experiences energy (atoms and space where left sees matter). In order to unite the two - to make the realization that both are the same thing, both left and right brain must engage. (This is also how one may understand a Trinitarian concept for God).
If you want to left brain intellectualize what happens in prayer you talk about the inner senses - intuition, empathy, compassion;you talk about subconsciousness and what becomes available in quiet prayer through the inner senses. But this is imposing left brain construction on what is understood and experienced by the human as matters of the spirit. You cannot tell people how to intuit, or empathize or love, or forgive, or experience grace. These
attributes of the human can only be developed and matured through experience of them. The way you open yourself to these experiences is to pray - meditate in quiet with God. In this way you grow your capacity for love, forgiveness, compassion, grace...nondual thinking (oops! there is my left brain again!).
The church's job is not to left brain intellectualize people in order to help them grow in spirit and experience God. It is to give people the tools - the prayer tools to experience God. This is why other religions spend worship time in meditation...not intellectualizing. I am not saying don't teach, but we do plenty of that. I am saying, what we lack, and what we are looking for so desperately, is God experience...and it comes through maturing the spirit in PRAYER.
Jesus spent as much time praying ALONE in prayer (or in the wilderness, or climbing up the side of a mt) as he did healing (maybe more!). He had to because this is how he deepened his unity with the Father and drew trust and energy from Source in order to give it to the world. This is our example! We are a society of DOERS....We must learn to BE. Then we will be mindful in the doing. We will be energized for the doing. Right humanity will flow from each right heart that is full of God experience -mature in God experience - abundant with compassion, filled with great love - ever restoring its Love conviction from the eternal source of Love. Balance - Being and Doing, Contemplation and Action, Right and Left Brain, Intellect/Body and Spirit.
We learn about humanity and how humanity has thought about God through teaching. This will not give us experiences of God, in fact it keeps us thinking we are separate. The only way we can analyze something is by setting it apart from us. BUT We experience our humanity and our unity with each other and with God through moment experiences of transcendence - learning to pray is THE WAY to grow the spirit's capacity for Moment experiences of God.
Your intellect watches God in a movie. Your intuition/empathy/compassion, all cultivated in prayer, are in the movie with God.
With you in prayerful, amazingly rich and deeply understanding peace of Christ,
Originally published September 17, 2011