Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Unveiled Praying

Faces, by artist Gary Wilson

Henri Nouwen writes that, in the act of praying, I not only listen to God, I listen with God.

In praying I am not listening to some distant voice, but a voice that lives in me. To pray, therefore, is to dwell in the presence of God with all I have and am: with... fears and anxieties,

my guilt and shame,

my sexual fantasies,

my greed and anger,

my joys, successes, aspirations and hopes,

my reflections, dreams and mental wandering,

and most of all my people, family, friends and enemies,

in short, all that makes me who I am.[1]

In praying I come into God's presence. All of me. With God.

I allow God to speak to every corner of my being.

"This is very hard since we are so fearful and insecure that we keep hiding ourselves from God."[2]

My tendency is to only show God the parts of myself that are more presentable. This makes my praying very selective and narrow. "And not just our prayer but our self-knowledge, because by behaving as strangers before God we become strangers to ourselves."[3]

In 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 Paul writes:

"Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away…. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

To authentically pray I must turn toward the Lord with an unveiled mind, heart, and soul. As I pray God wants to lift the veil over my face and see-into-me (“intimacy”).

Thomas Merton comments: "The Spirit is given to me, the veil is removed from my heart, that I reflect "with open face" the glory of Christ. It would be easy to remain with one's heart veiled, and it is not by any wisdom of my own, but by God's gift, that it is unveiled."[4]

God allows me the choice of living veiled or unveiled, even though he sees behind the veil. This is an act of his grace. He won't force himself on me, but invites me to be voluntarily vulnerable. Just that thought makes me want to remove the veil over my heart when I come to God.

I can choose to keep my heart veiled before God, but this will make life harder. I will then fake it before God. I will become an actor, and acting takes work.

To live unveiled before God is my freedom. Unveiled living is the gateway to my experience of God's love, mercy, and grace. It becomes my foundation for holy living. It is the portal to contemplation of God.

As I turn my heart to God, in praying, I lift the veil.  

[1] See Henri Nouwen, The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life, 83
[2] Ib.
[3] Ib., 83-84
[4] Thomas Merton, A Year with Thomas Merton, 23