October 28, 2007

Centering Prayer, cont.

In giving instructions about prayer, Jesus said: “Go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” I think the KJV uses the word “ closet,” and that strikes me as somehow more powerful. First of all, a closet is a small, dark space, without room for distraction. And second, if I were to pray in my closet I would need to do a lot of work first – and maybe that is just the point of this instruction, at least to me.

My closet is packed with stuff. I have more clothes than I can possibly wear in a month, I suppose. And just how many pair of black shoes does one woman need? If I were really to go into my closet to pray, I would need to get rid of a lot of stuff, literally and figuratively. I sit to pray and I am surrounded by my physical and mental accumulations. They crowd out my silence, intrude into my spirit, and disturb my soul. Instead of focusing on God, I think about what to wear, which bills need to be paid, whether I did the agenda for the 8:30 meeting. I try to pray in the midst of a soul crammed with the accumulations of too many seasons. I have held onto that which should have been discarded or recycled long ago: old grudges and hurt; imagined identities that no longer fit the reality of who I am; unnecessary busyness that bounces around my brain like a pack of chattering monkeys.

The room for centering prayer at the cathedral is dark and plain. It is a physical representation of what I would want for my spiritual reality. So I work on emptying my spiritual closets -- and my physical ones, too -- so there will be a little more room for the Holy Spirit, even in the midst of all the stuff of my life.


Erin said...

This entry speaks to me as a reminder of my continual struggle not to be a 'stuff' person. It was interesting to watch the news in the wake of the California fires. While some people were very happy to have their family members alive and well, others (and sometimes the same people, in the next breath), mourned the loss of all of their stuff: their houses, their clothes, their mementos. I wonder how I would feel if all of my possessions suddenly disappeared. I think I would feel sort of naked without any stuff, not missing each and every piece, but missing the sense of possession on a whole. Is it is ever really possible for me to say that my stuff is not important? How can I say that I don't need it when I have surrounded myself with nice, comfortable things? This must be why Jesus commanded those who followed Him to leave everything, just pick up and go. It was not enough for them to profess that their stuff didn't matter. They had to actually leave all of their belongings at a moment's notice. Similar, in fact, to the way some Californians were evacuated from their homes. I pray that the fire victims were able to find a spiritual comfort following the tragedy, and I hope that their struggle can serve as a reminder to me about where my true possessions lie.

PastorMartha said...

This a powerful reflection. I, too, wonder how I would feel if I suddenly lost everything. And I think that Jesus' words are very difficult -- not something that I would find easy or even possible to do. But the challenge of even considering it is part of the spiritual discipline for me. Thank you, Erin.