Raised, thinking of prayer as focused only in the immediate, I had no means of understanding that inadequacy. And so, better than 90% of my time in prayer was spent looking at my own and everyone else’s needs. I was understanding the idea of asking God for things, but no further. Only as I made it through most of my teenage years, did I begin comprehending the possibility that I might be wrong.
Every bit of my future oriented prayers were cemented into how I was trained to understand what had yet to happen. Of course, those expectations were solidly seated in what I had been taught. Now, most of those teachings in one fashion or another are still present. My desires of those years past, I now see this childish. Asking of God that specific events work out in way I had learned to see in that way, now make little sense to me.
Then, somewhere during my Bible college years I began reading outside the norm. At first all I read were the Protestant academic critiques of the Roman Catholic Church’s fashions of prayer. It was the aesthetic styles of prayer which caught my attention. I still had no idea of what it meant to let go of my projections onto God’s creation and so onto myself. On top of that, I had no idea how to recognize my projections onto God versus God, Himself.
Only after my brief run as a self-proclaimed agnostic/atheist in the late 1980s did the ascetic lifestyle begin to sink in through the cracks. His fracking into my pretensions of self were causing unanticipated changes. At that level, I am honestly grateful for that three or so year run as an agnostic/atheist.
In the early 1990s, as I began reentering Christendom, I discovered the Eastern Orthodox Church and the hesychastic styles of prayer. This discovery came as I read works by Keating, Merton, Pennington and Vogel. At first, I wasn’t conscious of the transformation, but have since become aware of those changes. This refashioning of the relationship, I thought, I had with God seemed easy, at first. However, as I attempted this entry through the contemplative prayer fashions of the Anglican and Roman Catholic fashions of faith I discovered a whole new problem. I discovered that it is difficult to let go of the pretense we all call self.