Thursday, July 22, 2010

 Pray Without Ceasing...

A group of ministers had assembled for the discussion of difficult questions. Among others, it was asked how the command to "pray without ceasing" could be complied with. Various explanations were given, until it was finally agreed that one would be appointed to write a lengthily essay on it which would be read at the next meeting.


The entire discussion was overheard by a young woman who had been serving the tea. She said, "What? A whole month to tell the meaning of that text? Why it is one of easiest and best texts in the Bible!"


"Well, well, Mary", said an old minister, "what can you say about it? Let us know how you understand it. Can you pray all the time without ceasing?"


"Oh yes, sir!"


"What?" the old minister coughed back, "when you have so many things to do?"


"Why, sir, the more I have to do, the more I can pray!"


"Indeed", he replied, "Well Mary, let us know how it is. Most of us think the answer is otherwise."


"Well, sir," she said, "when I first open my eyes in the morning, I pray ‘Lord, open the eyes of my understanding.’ While I am dressing, I pray that I may be clothed with the robes of righteousness. When I wash, I ask for the washing of regeneration. As I work, I pray that I may have the strength equal to my day. As I sweep out the house, I pray the my heart may be cleansed from all impurities. While preparing and eating my breakfast, I pray to be fed with the hidden manna and the sincere milk of the Word. As I am busy with the little children, I ask God to make me become as a child. And so on, all day. Everything I do furnishes me with a thought for prayer."


"Enough, enough", cried the old minister, "these things are revealed to babes and his from the wise and prudent. Go on , Mary, pray without ceasing. May we all do the same!"

This is one of those little stories that really made me think when I first saw it. Since my very early days, before I was involved in any kind of organized (or disorganized!) religion, I made attempts to follow the above model. It was never taught to me; I simply did it because it felt right.

During my tumultuous teen years, that diligence was swept away for a time, and I lost my ability and focus. Still, when I began learning about Wicca in earnest, I found it again, and fell into the comforting rhythm of it with ease. Throughout the years, my practice has waxed and waned. There are times when every waking moment seems to be a prayer in motion, and other times when I can't find prayer at all in my heart or soul. Sometimes I even “fake it 'til I make it,” saying the words despite the hollowness within me, knowing that eventually the practice of it will bring me to a place of fullness once again.

So by now you're probably wondering why I have a picture of Gray with a scythe in his hand, when I'm talking about prayer. It doesn't seem to match, does it? Yet, it does. Watching him use our new (old... very old, but new to us) scythes on the tall grass, in preparation for cutting our spelt down, I thought of the prayer of movement.

Long ago, I studied Tai Chi with a sensei at a local community center. Living in British Columbia as I did, I was lucky enough to learn with someone who had been doing it for many years, since he was a young boy at his grandfather's feet. He taught me the prayer of it. Watching Gray with the scythe was like watching someone practice Tai Chi. There was prayer to it.

When I have the opportunity to go up and scythe down our spelt, I hope to fall into the dancing rhythm of it, letting the prayer in the movement take over my soul. As the sharp blade fells the golden heads of wheat, so bright and bursting with goodness, I want to find the still, silent place within my mind where the Gods speak so eloquently. I plan on listening.

I'm in That Place right now a lot. I've reached a place of frustration with a family member, and instead of yelling, I've taken it out by scrubbing my sink and sweeping my kitchen floor. I've cooked at that person, a ninja action of covert anger thrust in a positive way. I've managed to find the still, silent place while loading the dishwasher and switching loads of laundry. The result of my frustration being channeled in this way, is that the house is looking much better than it did. There is no down-side to my centering actions. The prayers have risen up inside me and filled me, and are starting to push the angry emotions away. Why be angry, when my house looks good, and I've done the things that need doing, and people are smiling at me for my efforts?

May the Gods to whom you owe allegiance bless you and keep you always. May the help you find the prayers in all that you do!
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