Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Listening to each other

Perhaps I am oversensitive since I live in a country where our
politicians and a goodly proportions of our population spend more
time complaining about the delivery of the message than they ever
spend listening to it. Nothing is being communicated because we are
all looking for faults in the way the other guy said it.

Seems to me that here in the USA we need to make the effort to hear
what the other is saying rather than fuss about its delivery system.

For myself, struggling to internalize St. Benedict's teaching on
humility, I know this means I have to learn to listen much better than
I do, especially when I don't care for the tone, the vocabulary etc.
It's like I have to get over my fine self and be attentive to the
other person. To concentrate on the how, rather than the content strikes
me as an essentially selfish, self-centered act. Surely as Christians,
we are here to serve, not to be served. I wish I could say this came easily or naturally to me. But it does not. Please pray for me in this struggle to learn to hear.

Certainly, there is the language of violence, of abuse, and I don't like it either. I have refused to engage in conversation with people I felt were deliberately using political incorrect language. Is that appropriate? Is that teaching by example?

And then are those genuinely struggling to make their voices heard, to express their needs or their opinions who employ broad sweeping generalizations. Is it right to criticize them for that instead of discerning what they want to say? I think rather than dismiss them for their communication style, perhaps humility requires us to ask them questions. " Did you mean?" "Have I heard you correctly?"

Oh dear, yes. This might make it a lengthy conversation. It might require us to stop the 12 other things we are doing and focus on that one person. I am thinking that here in the USA where polarization and polemics appear to rule the day, the only way past it is to concentrate on the content, not the medium.

Or, let's stop shooting the messenger.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

About Intercessory Prayer

This question was asked on a list in which I participate:

> What is an intercessory prayer of great faith? Is it
> expecting in faith that persistence will pay off and
> God will grant the requested favor? (at least some of
> the time?) Is it to gain serenity and peace in
> accepting that God's will be done? Something else?

I think any intercessory prayer is a prayer of faith. I don't have any
idea if my prayers have any effect... on God, or on the situation I
pray about. We can't know, I think, what our prayers mean to the

I relate it in my mind to a distinction I reached a while back
between "healing' and "curing". As in, while I have not been cured of
Major Depressive Disorder and may never be, I believe I have been
healed to a significant extent with an even more significant extent to
go. But I still have the brain disorder.

One thing I think we have to remember always in any discussion on
prayer is that God does not experience time. We need linear time:
beginning, middle and end. We experience the passage of time with a
past, present and future. As best I can put it, God lives in an
eternal present. No beginning, middle or end. No past, present and
future. Only now. Of course, Jesus, God Incarnate, did experience
linear time.

IMO when we ask questions like do our prayers cause God to grant the
prayer, we are thinking linearly. We ask in the present, hoping to
see a change in the future. We might think of our prayers as having
cause and effect. However, cause and effect rely on the concept of
linear time.

As I understand it, to God in His eternal now, there is no time
before, during or after the prayer. So our prayers cannot be the
cause that has an effect. In other words, I dont believe that our
prayer changes God's mind, or anything like that.

Yes, I know the parable of the importunate person who beseeched God
over and over again and Jesus commended that person, saying that
beseeching God like that, over and over again, would have effect. But
I don't think the parable says that it would have an effect upon God.
I think it means that the parable will have an effect upon the ones
who pray and the community in which they pray.

I believe that prayer changes us. It changes us because we pray and
because we are prayed for. A community that faithfully prays together
and for each other, is a community that is most going to be known for
the love we have for each other.

The mountain that is moved when we pray, is the heart of stone within each of us.

Such is my belief.

May the Holy Spirit dance in your heart!