Prayer is relationship with God. This bond with God is the ability to pay attention to life in all its wonder, savor the experiences and see God at the center of it all. The following is a brief reflection on how people experience God.
Prayer: Communication of Love in Joy, Wonder and Silence
The initial movement in prayer is from God who invites people to look at God. What makes us notice God are those foundational experiences of joy that focus our attention on our reason for being. As spiritual director William Barry writes,
Prayer is an unfolding process of heightened consciousness discovered through joy, wonder and silence. When we are disposed to look more deeply at such experiences, God’s revelation breaks through our own desires. John Bamberger explains it this way:
Through the quiet of prayer one can notice the movements of the heart in response to questions about human existence. This leads to faith in the source of all creation.
Silence is about communication. In the relationship between Jesus and the Father, this silence is the language of love. Entering into a discipline of quiet allows the Word to be sifted through incessant clamoring of thoughts. There is a struggle to be still because of the noise of this world, which easily grabs our attention. If we dare to pay attention in these moments of silence, we can discover the freedom of love to let God’s Word be revealed through us.
Prayer and Beauty
Prayer offers a time away from a hectic schedule that allows one to notice in deeper ways how God intended life to flourish. Such expressions of joy are celebrated in the experience of beauty. In his autobiography, Sacred Journey, Frederick Buechner describes one such experience that surprised him:
Years after the original experience of beauty, Buechner was able to recall and savor it again. These experiences may be brief moments of inspiration and awe when looking at a sunset or feeling like I am actually seeing a flower for the first time. In these situations such sensations arouse heartfelt curiosity at what it means to be brought into existence. This wonder of beauty is the recognition that one is connected to all of creation, yet incapable of completely understanding how it came to be.
These awe-filled moments do not appear on command. We can only prepare ourselves to receive and relish them as gifts. We open ourselves to revelation through our desires and wait. Prayer is the ability to wait and listen. This desire to pay attention to God is the discipline that disposes us to be in God’s presence through our ordinary, daily activities and encounters. An artist, Frederick Franck, while watching a bee on a purple flower, describes this awareness of Being in the following way:
To be so attentive to the stillness of creation as nature unfolds is prayer. There is an ‘artist’ within all of us that is the divine creator. When we pray we co-create with God to raise awareness of wonder in the world. When we draw closer to God that reflection of love is what others will perceive in us. We become God’s instruments that generate images of compassion and beauty in a wounded world. If you want to see how some artists participate in co-creation then look at “Art as Prayer.” Their stories may inspire you to explore creativity and discover how art and prayer can help others.