Saturday, August 09, 2014

Praying Is Superior to Reading About Praying (Prayer Summer 2014)

Cape May, New Jersey
Reading books about prayer and the spiritual life is neither necessary nor a substitute for an actual life of dwelling in the presence of God, just as reading books on swimming is not the same as actually jumping in the water and swimming. Yes, God can meet you while you're reading a book. But because this is about a real relationship with a Person, it demands that the book be put down, the head be lifted up, and the eyes look into the eyes of the Great Lover of our Souls.

If you have time to read a book about prayer then you have time to pray. The two are different. The Person is greater than the book about the Person.

Writers like Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton both examined this inner thing that wants to read about the spiritual life rather than engage in it. Here's Merton as he writes:

"What is the use of complaining about not being a contemplative, if I do not take the opportunities I get for contemplation? I suppose I take them, but in the wrong way. I spend the time looking for something to read about contemplation - something to satisfy my raffish spiritual appetites - instead of shutting up and emptying my mind and leaving the inner door open for the Holy Spirit to enter from the inside, all the doors being barred and all my blinds down." (Merton, The Sign of Jonas)

Contemplation is the term used to describe the activity and experience of beholding God as one dwells in God's presence. "Contemplation" is the mystical-unitive term par excellence. (Meaning not, of course, a metaphysical union of being [ontological union] with God.)

Prayer is talking with God about what you and God are doing together.

Put the book and the laptop and the iPhone down and have deep conversation with God.