Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Undissipated Prayer (PrayerLife)

To be dissipated is to be scattered, scatterbrained, scatterhearted.

The self can be and is, in these times, spread out like a thin layer of Saran wrap over the minutia of life. We are the identityless people. The issue of personal and corporate identity is the crisis of our time. Our culture makes T.S. Eliot's "hollow people" look like the paragons of self-discovery.

The more we lose focus the more the self dissipates. Thomas Merton writes:

"The measure of our identity, or our being (for here the two mean exactly the same thing) is the amount of our love for God. The more we love earthly things, reputation, importance, ease, success and pleasures, for ourselves, the less we love God. Our identity gets dissipated among a lot of things that do not have the value we imagine we see in them, and we are lost in them: we know it obscurely by the way all these things disappoint us and sicken us once we get what we have desired." (Quoted in Henri Nouwen,  36)

Like Emilie Griffin once wrote, it's not life's failures that disappoint us, but life's achievements and successes, since once acquired we come to see they do not fulfill us in the way we imagined they would.

The dissipated, flat-as-a-pancake self becomes less and less in its never-satiated quest to consume more and more. Life blurs together. 

What's needed is the discovery, or rediscovery, of focus, of centeredness, of selfhood. This is a learned behavior, and can be found in a life of praying. In praying the self orients itself to the true north of the being of God. In praying God gathers the scattered fragments of self into an undissipated whole. In the dedicated act of praying we are pieced back together and restored to our first love, which is Jesus. In praying we realize, experientially, that our identity lies fully "in Christ."