Tag Archives: healing

Healing at the Center

Centering Prayer is saving my mind while healing my soul.

IMG_20140812_190249_047-EFFECTS

St. Paul Monastery in Minnesota

I just returned from a five-day silent retreat at the St. Paul Monastery.  I practiced Lectio Devina (a form of prayerful reading and conversation).  I was familiar with the practice – we use a form of it during our staff meetings at Resurrection – yet the monastic practice strengthened my love of God and God’s Word.

Jesus in the Center of Prayer

Jesus in the Center of Prayer

However the most profound part of the week was the practice of Centering Prayer.  Each morning at 7 am we sat together for an hour simply breathing and praying our holy word.  We repeated it again at 10 and at 3.  Too many it sounds incredibly boring.   For me, it was drinking from the river of the water of life (Revelation 22:1).   It was simply resting or floating in God’s gracious love. Emptying the mind so God’s love could fill it.  Not just thinking about God’s love, but actually resting in it.

Oh, my mind fought the emptiness.  My thoughts and feelings would race from one idea to the next.  The river seemed to be covered with all kinds of flotsam and debris.  “What is happening at church?”  “Why did I say that to her?” “What will we have for lunch.” This would happen hundreds of time during the quiet.   Each time I caught the thought skipping across the surface, I let it go and return to my breath and my word.  To simply BE in God.

Henri Nouwen wrote in Here and Now, 1994

The real enemies of our life are the “oughts” and the “ifs.” They pull us backward into the unalterable past and forward into the unpredictable future. But real life takes place in the here and the now. God is a God of the present. God is always in the moment, be that moment hard or easy, joyful or painful. When Jesus spoke about God, he always spoke about God as being where and when we are. “When you see me, you see God. When you hear me you hear God.” God is not someone who was or will be, but the One who is, and who is for me in the present moment. That’s why Jesus came to wipe away the burden of the past and the worries for the future. He wants us to discover God right where we are, here and now.

Centering prayer is a form of mindfulness practice, living in the current moment.

Fire Creek was ablaze with color.

At times I missed the beauty that surrounded me

I discovered my real need for this last summer when I was backpacking on the Pacific Crest Trail.   I had looked forward to the trip for months and was in absolutely beautiful alpine country, yet my mind kept racing back to worries in Minnesota or to past actions that I regretted or wished I could change.   Here I was in the place I wanted to be, and my mind could not stay there!    I knew I needed help.

This past spring I took Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class which is a secular form of Buddhist meditation practices.  It was incredibly helpful.  The Centering Prayer has similarities to meditation, yet centers the practice in the love of God in Christ Jesus.   That has been healing.

Now next week, I head back out to Washington state to do another section of the PCT.  I will continue my practice of Centering Prayer and Lectio Devina.  I trust that my mind will be able to stay on the trail with my body this year.

How does prayer touch your life?

Lord Jesus, teach us to pray.

Advertisements

Experience the Way

Christina with her sister Suzanne and holding nephew Jack

Christina with her sister Suzanne and holding nephew Jack

My daughter, Christina, was not quite three. She was waking up from a nap and my wife noticed that she did not seem fully responsive. Christina’s eyes were open and she was breathing, but her face was blank and she did not respond to any touch or sound. This persisted for a few minutes, so we called 911 and an ambulance came. We rushed off to the children’s hospital, uncertain what was happening, but praying for God’s intervention.

I think about that ambulance ride, when I read the story (John 4:46-54) of the royal official whose son was ill. The official traveled more than twenty miles by foot to Jesus and “begged him to come down and heal his son.” The official was someone who normally gave orders and told people what to do. Begging was not part of his daily life—especially with a wandering, controversial preacher. Yet he was desperate to help his son and if begging was necessary, he would do it.

Many parents would do the same. I know my prayers in the ambulance were a form of begging, “God, help my daughter.” It was raw and real and I waited for God to hear me.

Jesus’ response to the official sounds ambivalent, almost callous, “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” It sounds like it is meant for the crowd that surrounded Jesus and not for the official.

Yet the father persisted. As I said he was desperate. “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.”

I hear and empathize with this father’s plea. At times God seems distant and silent, yet I persist in my prayer for God’s assistance.

Jesus responded, “Go, your son will live.”

This is not what the father asked. He wanted Jesus to come with him, to be present and touch his son. I would want the same. I want Jesus to be physically present, reassuring me as much as my child.

Yet the official believed the word of Jesus. He started on his way, not knowing what would happen, but simply trusting in the promise of Jesus. I wonder what thoughts and feelings he experienced as he walked towards home. (I let you read the story to discover how it concludes.)

Sometimes the WAY seems isolated and cold.

Sometimes the WAY seems isolated and cold.

Many parents live right there in the story.  We are walking the way, unsure of the future.  We have the promise of God’s love and healing, but are uncertain how it will unfold. We walk, trusting in the promise of God for our children and for ourselves. We are on the way, but the way seems dark and cheerless.

Shortly after my daughter arrived at the hospital, we met with doctors and discovered that she had experienced a mild form of epileptic seizure, something that could be treated with a prescription. They assured us that she would grow out of it. And she has.

Still I remember clearly that feeling as we drove to the hospital, the begging quality of my prayer and the simple trust in the promise of God’s love. We all walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).  We try to remember that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6)

When have you walked by faith and not by sight?

Lord Jesus, I believe, help me in my unbelief.

Prayer Challenge

Title: The Prayer of Jesus (St John Passion - ...

Title: The Prayer of Jesus (St John Passion – 3) Painter: Jacek Andrzej Rossakiewicz (b.1956) Year: 1990 Characteristics: Oil on canvas, 245 x 137 cm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus made radical promises regarding prayer.

  Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. (Matthew 7:7)

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)

Jesus promised that his disciples could “ask whatever they wish” and God would make it so. Such bold promises challenge my observation of the church and the world. So many prayers seem to go unanswered or forgotten.

I am not talking about what I consider “childish” prayers, like winning the lottery or finding a parking spot at the shopping mall. I am thinking about those real prayers of the heart, when day-after-day you pray for the healing of a loved one. A friend is afflicted with cancer or an addiction, a spouse is battling depression or a child is traveling in the wrong crowd and we pray. We pray asking God to bring healing and peace to this person believing that this is God’s will for God’s people. Jesus certainly brought healing to those in need; healing and wholeness is what God desires for all of creation, especially his children.

Naturally if the person resists God’s healing, God will not force mercy. Often a person wrestling with addiction has to hit bottom before they can see how powerless they are in their addiction. God does not force healing.

Still many of us pray daily for God’s healing and we do not experience it. Oh, there are those occasions when miraculous healings occur. Thanks be to God! I have participated in prayer services where God’s power has restored the sick to health. Yet such answers seem almost arbitrary because others have not had the same prayers answered even when their faith was strong and their prayers persistent.

I do not know the answer to my own question, other than to look to Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed for his own cup of suffering to be taken away, yet the next day he walked to the cross and death. His prayer was real and deep. And though he did drink the cup, his prayers gave him the strength and power to walk to Golgotha . . . . and three days later, the empty tomb.

And that is what we each need: the strength and courage to walk the path God has given us. So, like Jesus, we pray, “your will be done.”  The final answer to all prayers comes in Jesus’ resurrection and the promise of new life in him.

Lord Jesus, your will be done in my life.

Quarks and Prayers

Quarks: sub-atomic particles

This morning I listened to a podcast of an interview with John Polkinghorne, an English physicist and theologian.  He described how his understanding of sub-atomic quarks helped him to understand prayer. http://being.publicradio.org/programs/2011/quarks-creation/   In the past science explained the world in mechanistic terms as fixed and determined, like a carefully made watch that is ticking away.  But now physicists realize that things are not quite so pre-determined. Quarks are the tiniest participles of matter, smaller than atoms, that scientist cannot exactly locate nor predict.  Quarks are sort of “cloudy,” fluid, chaotic.

For Polkinghorne this changed his understanding of prayer.  In a mechanical, pre-determined world, prayer did not make much sense.  Everything was locked into a set pattern of laws that God had established at creation.  But in the world of quarks, where it is much more fluid and unknown, prayer becomes an interaction with God and creation. 

In old science, God was simply a watchmaker who created the world, wound it up and then step back to observe the watch from a distance. And yes, there are some strong physical laws that guide our days.  The sun will rise in the east, not the west.  If you jump off a roof, you will not fly, but fall to earth.   Yet, in the field of quarks, God is also like a conductor, constantly interacting with the musicians who are making music together.  With quarks Polkinghorne found beauty, wonder and awe, like a good jazz improvisation. 

This makes sense to me. For example I do not pray that the January cold-snap in Minnesota will suddenly become a July heat-wave.  The seasons are fixed.  Yet the chaotic, fluid nature of weather could be influence by the prayers of God’s people.  The prophet Elijah’s prayers for a drought in I Kings 17-18 is indicative of this.  The same is true for prayers of healing; there is an interplay between our body, mind and spirit that truly affects the body’s healing.  Prayer is an invitation for God to participate in our body’s healing, in a deep elemental way.  When we pray for someone to be healed of cancer, we are asking God to allow the healthy cells in the body to replace/remove the cancer cells at the most basic biological level.

My favorite prayer of Jesus reflects such an attitude.  We pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as in heaven.”  As we pray this prayer we are opening ourselves to God’s activity in the world, seeking to be in the flow of  God’s Spirit.  The Spirit is not pre-determined, but more fluid and sometimes chaotic, like a dance. The will of God has fixed aspects, like the ten commandments.  Yet in our daily life, we seek to see the conductor’s baton and stay with God’s rhythm and beat.

How has your understanding of prayer changed overtime?