Recently, I was sitting in silent prayer, disturbing my meditations the ominous and irrepressible ticking of a clock. Time marched on and with each tock a tick of my life dripped away – moment by moment. Each tick sounded me closer to my death – how rapidly the seconds race by! They cannot be held back.
I have not always viewed time as containing such speed. I can remember sitting in school classrooms when the clock seemed to slow to almost a stand still when awaiting the final bell for the day. Seconds dragged by slowly as I anticipated their passing with expectation. If I could advise my younger self on this I would – don’t wish the time away. Be frugal with each moment and treasure it.
Logically, I know that time always moves at the same speed. We all know this. But maybe the advent of each day and each year passing helps to realise just how precious the seconds are that pass by. Moments never to be recovered. Time runs out, my time runs out, your time runs out.
In the 3rd chapter of Ecclesiastes there is a somewhat famous passage that begins with the words “There is a time for all things”. The following verses describe the diverse ambiguity of the joys and sorrows of life. Having lived through more than the half the years that I expect that I will live I have tasted this ambiguity of life. Whether we like it or not “there is a time for all things” but here’s the irony there is notthe time for all things. We make choices as to how we will spend the time and with whom, which returns me to the silence and the prayer.
In John 17 Jesus says eternal life is knowing the Father and the Son. The discipline of Centering Prayer has become a touchstone for me in knowing Jesus and the one who sent him. Extravagant in using the luxury of the seconds of my life seeking to encounter God more closely I trust that in these times of silence I will know and encounter a glimpse of eternity now: the mystery of God’s presence. Seeking, if only, a mere glimmer of the divine bliss, of knowing God in the scant seconds of my living. If this occurs then maybe, just maybe, I will lived have knowing what it means to live eternally within the moments of my existence.
Paul writes that “he does not know how to pray as he ought” so I have a sense that we never arrive at a perfect way of praying, but the Spirit groans within.
Nevertheless, through the journey of faith we can encounter approaches to prayer, maybe call them spiritual disciplines, that help us to nurture and persist in our prayer life.
One of the earliest forms of prayer that I can remember being taught about was based on using the acronym ACTS.
Adoration – Praise God for God’s glory.
Confession – Admit there are times you get it wrong, that we all get it wrong.
Thanksgiving – Express gratitude to God for what is happening in your life and in the world.
Supplication – Pray for someone else or something else.
This formula for prayer pushes us to think beyond ourselves and incorporates shifts in our emotions from joy to sorrow to gratitude to lament. It can be a short form with a sentence or phrase for each. Or, you can heap paragraph upon paragraph in each section.
Prayer is a discipline of trust and deep engagement with God. This simple approach to prayer can be used with others or alone. Do you pray? How often? When? Where? What about? Does the simple form of prayer help?
I recently saw Casey Chambers in concert who explained the struggle of faith for her son Talon. After his parents separated he encountered the problem of one parent having faith and one not. This song explores the ambiguity in life of trying to make sense of the divine. Despite the best efforts of some God cannot be proved or disproved. In the ancient letter of Hebrews, found in the New Testament, it describes faith as hope in things not seen. Engaging in the Christian faith involves wrestling with Jesus as God’s answer to predicaments and confusion of human life. As people of faith we are all on a journey which includes doubts and questions as we try to understand God’s answer in Jesus. You are more than welcome to join us on this journey. Sunday, 9 am.
Over the counter today in the corner store a simple common exchange with the cashier. “How’s the day going?” I asked. “It’s good, it’s going quickly.”
I sauntered out of the shop marvelling at the idea that someone would want time to pass quickly. Time presses on constantly, incessantly, unforgiving. Sometimes it feels slow, sometimes it hurtles by but time passes by. Our lives are like the flowers and grass of the fields that pass so quickly. So few days and hours and moments to spend with others. Such a precious thing: time. How do we use that time? How do we experience the moments in which we live? Can we slow our experience of life and live deliberately?
Jesus said that eternal life, although I prefer the translation eternity life, was about knowing him and the Father who sent him (Jn 17:3). The practices of our faith encourages us to be attentive to the relationship with God and so encounter eternity life now. This may involve intentional contemplation, and attending worship or prayer groups with others as doorways to enter into the eternal now of life.
This week we recommence Sunday Night Centring Prayer at St Lucia UCA. An opportunity to enter eternity life now. Come along, slow down and enter the silence of God’s presence within and around you and discover that time going slowly can be a good thing too.
Recently I have been reading Brad Jersak’s bookA More Christlike God. In the book he critiques the notions of God as being like a doting grandfather, a punishing judge, a dead beat dad and Santa Claus. Liam Neeson seems to have skillfully, and unwittingly, combined all 4 of these kinds of these projections of God into his Mall Santa audition. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus we remember his humble and fragile beginnings, we remember he came to bring peace on earth, and we remember he was a healer of lives and restorer of relationships. So often images of God can leave us no better off than facing the capriciousness of a random, chaotic and cruel universe. How does Jesus presence in the world change your view of God?
I must confess growing up as an Australian I find the infiltration of Halloween into our culture as both an Americanisation and Commericalisation of a holiday to sell us more things. These aspects of Halloween, greed and gluttony, are far more concerning to me than any ‘spiritual’ dangers of dressing up as ghouls or ghosts. At least when we are dressing up in silly costumes we recognise what we are doing, but when it comes to greed and gluttony this is our embedded in our culture. Despite this critique, I also understand that the history of the celebrations do have spiritual significance that when known might offer the possibility of conversation with people who engage in Halloween activities. I believe that there is always a possibility of God at work in all manner of things. How will you respond to people who knock on your door, or invite your children to participate? How do you engage in Halloween? How could you see it as opportunity rather than simply risk?