Friday, 18 September 2015

Prayer and Insight

"You can't get there from here! (US expression used in the New England area (most frequently in Maine) by persons being asked for directions to a far distant location that cannot be accessed without extensive, complicated directions.)

A mountain climber sees a mountain and begins to climb it. His goal is to reach the top but along the way he comes to an impasse. There appears to be no connection between his present position and the next level of the climb. There must be a way to bridge the gap, but how?

We might draw an analogy between mountain climbing and prayer. Indeed, people in scripture who went off to pray, frequently chose high places where they would enter into prayer. (i.e.the mount of the Transfiguration. Mtt. 17:1 )

The goal of personal prayer is nothing other than encounter with God - to reach the "top". But you can't get there by your efforts alone. Unless and until God comes to meet you, you remain where you are, talking to yourself. But when God causes us to experience his presence the goal of our prayer is achieved.

We are familiar with the saying, "seeing is believing". But in prayer it is the other way around, "believing is seeing". Like the climber looking for a place to make a connection, God guides us to a place of "insight". We entrust ourselves to God's grace and make a leap of faith. INSIGHT is that unique grace found in personal prayer where we learn things about God and about ourselves that we would never had discovered on our own.

Now there are two important considerations concerning personal prayer that I would like to draw your attention to in this post. 
  1. Personal Prayer as CONVERSATION
  2. Personal Prayer and INSIGHT
1. We can learn a great deal about another person from the reports others make about them. But no report by another can compare with what we learn by meeting them in person. Sitting down with someone and entering into conversation with them makes our knowledge of them clear and personal.
 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. Heb.8:11, (Jer. 31:34)
For more on prayer as CONVERSATION, I recommend this article by David L. Fleming SJ. LINK

2. Our second consideration has to do with the way we learn. Learning is more than the accumulation of information, it's how information impacts us and motivates our response to the the information received. We might liken this to the mountain climber who arrives at the point of impasse, and realizing that there is more to this climb, sets about to discover how to bridge the gap so that he may continue the climb and reach the top. The discovery or awakening to how to bridge the gap is called INSIGHT.

Adam Hincks, S.J. posted an article describing how the Jesuit theologian, Bernard Lonergan (1904–1984) approached the question of how we learn. In his post, Hinks points out "how Lonergan believed that the key to solving many problems in philosophy, theology and other sciences is to grasp what we are actually doing when we come to know something." He explained that there are three fundamental, interlocking processes involved in knowing:
  1. First, there is experience. Knowledge begins with data. ABDUCTIVE reasoning.
  2. Second, there is understanding. This comes about through insights that say, “Aha!” when one perceives a solution in the data. INDUCTIVE reasoning.
  3. Third, there is judgement. - verifying that an insight is actually realised. DEDUCTIVE reasoning.

In personal prayer, the Spirit helps us climb through "the mountain" of experiences that make up our daily life - what is helping us or hindering us from reaching our goal, communion with God - and what we need to do to cooperate with Grace.

Here is a LINK to the full article by Adam Hincks

[ Lonergan's works include Insight: A Study of Human Understanding (1957) ]

Friday, 11 September 2015

A Place To Listen

Jesus frequently withdrew to places
where he could be alone to pray. (see Luke. 5:16)

It is most important that we take note of this practice of prayer that Jesus followed throughout his public life. The key feature here is "a place of solitude" in which to pray. The expression, "one-on-one" comes to mind. It is personal, the God of the universe now giving His full attention to just one, alone, before Him.

We have already considered "A Place To Pray", in the Praying Scripture Series, (links listed in the side panel) Here are some further reflections.

COMMUNION WITH JESUS: Throughout the apostolic period and into the first century of the Church, there was a truly real, and deeply spiritual, communion with Christ that characterized the religious experience of believers. From this, believers drew the strength and courage to endure the persecutions that were launched against them. They retreated to the safety of the catacombs to be nourished in their faith. Others retreated to hidden places in the wilderness for protection and to pray. Here we have the beginnings of the monastic movement within the Church. As the persecutions started to subside under the emperor Constantine, the focus begins to shift away from the enemy "without", to the enemy "within" - to the corrupting influences of the world that could infect their faith life, their communion with Christ and destroy it.

The practice of "retreating" to places of prayer and reflection continues to be an important part of the spiritual practice of the Church. Retreat houses dedicated to the ministry of conducting retreats are found in most diocese. Different types of retreats include: Confirmation Retreats - Charismatic Retreats - Teen Retreats - Family Retreats - Married Couple Retreats - Women’s Retreats - Pastor Retreats - Monastic/Abbey Retreats. Here is a LINK to a website dedicated to exploring retreats and the places where they are offered.

Erecting Chapels and Oratory's in the houses of religious, in rectory's, schools, hospitals and other similar places is quite common. Another, is the practice of creating a place to pray in one's own home - "my own private oratory". These places and spaces invoke a sense of the sacred and of presence for one who wishes to "enter" into prayer. Here is a LINK to a website that explores in detail the establishing of a Private Oratory/Place of Prayer in one's home.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Prophetic Voices - 4

Speak this word Lord, "Ephphatha" that I may hear your voice!

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre
and went by way of Sidon 
to the Sea of Galilee,
into the district of the Decapolis.
And people brought to him a deaf man
who had a speech impediment
and begged him to lay his hand on him.
He took him off by himself 
away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, 
and said to him,
“Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” —
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.

Gospel Mk 7:31-37

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