Over the past week, a couple of friends have begun asking me about the Jesus Prayer. One, sincerely, interested in learning the basics, desires to see more than just another fashion of prayer. The other has been going about a necessary sorting out of his own far Eastern fascinations from what is voiced by Eastern Orthodox writers.
M Basil Pennington
Their questions brought forward what I am certain will prove a modifier of my own prayer life. Especially, by writing about my own struggles, stumbles and feeble steps I may be better able to sort things out. And then, possibly a few who are interested in reframing their prayer lives’ may find some assistance in their own spiritual endeavors.
Across the past twenty plus years I spent finding my way through my life in prayer, early on, I discovered Contemplative Prayer. My interest grew out reading works by M. Basil Pennington. By picking up on, “Finding Grace at the Center: the beginning of center prayer” I was confronted with the beginning of a redefinition.
Bp. Anthony A. Vogel
Somewhere around beginning of this hunt of refashioned prayer, I picked up on a work that is hard to find anywhere. Try searching for Anthony A. Vogel’s work, “Body Theology: God presence in man’s world” with worldcat.org. You’ll discover that it probably isn’t in your local library.
Bishop Vogel’s effort to draw my attention away from intellectual prowess and into the immediate was a little destabilizing. His words, “The presence of God is the source of all meaningfulness.” contradicted many parts of who I thought I was. Most of my supposed life in Christ was spent either intellectually or emotionally active. I probably still live with a wide gap between the two.
My earliest introduction to Contemplative Prayer was espoused by Thomas Merton in his work, “Seeds of Contemplation”. His work offered another scaffolding across which I anxiously crept. I had discovered Merton, perhaps a year before coming into contact with Fr. David Morgan at St. John’s Cathedral. He and several others had taken up residence in two old houses near the cathedral. It was Fr. David who helped me to begin tackling what Merton, Pennington and Vogel had put before me.
I don’t know whether it was the following quote or not, but something like this in Merton’s works throttled me. “We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.” Don’t take my tossing those words’ out as a suggestion that I am truly at peace with God. I am not and yet I feel something rooting in but still unable to spot a thing on the surface of myself.
It was from this point on that something deep within began to totter. Perhaps my stumbling was caused by what was rooting deep within and crumbling my fabricated foundation. I still have a several postings to toss out at you before I can adequately begin laying before you my experience within the Jesus Prayer. My laying these experiences out I pray will be mutually beneficial.