I am 51 years old; not so old to some, positively ancient to my kids. And, as one solidly in late middle age, I find my understanding of prayer continues to change. There are times I feel stuck. I get caught between the existential realities of my contemplative life – seeking out the inexpressible mysteries of God – and the tiring requirements of my complex day to day experience.

Not exactly an original problem, but there it is!

I’ve already shared a bit about my growing prayer life and the experiments therein. But, oftentimes the kind of space, silence and solitude I feel necessary for the expansion of my soul is quite simply not forthcoming. Lately, God has been taking me on an outward journey to find my core. Let me explain.

My natural and spiritual DNA are of the Celts. ScotlandBut I am also a product of the Latin, erudite West. Historically, in the Western world, matters of faith have tended to favor reason and rationalism, sometimes at the expense of the senses; the daily realities in which we find ourselves and through which we live with and into transcendence. The great mystic movements have helped to curtail this, but haven’t been hugely successful in altering things on a large scale.

Therefore, since the darker, more apophatic mysticism to which I am prone is no longer as probing, God is leading me into the eyes-wide-open hospitality of the Celts. I am finding immense pleasure in prayer amidst the banal but necessary tasks to which we all must attend. I pray while washing dishes, tending the garden, cleaning out the garage, showering, shopping…anything really. An extra layer of delight is found when the particular tasks are of benefit to my wife or a friend or colleague.

In times often dedicated to complete silence and meditation, I’ve taken to spiritual disciplines of service through which I engage with God. I can be found praying the Psalms while sweeping the kitchen floor or making coffee for my wife first thing in the morning. It has opened up new regions of prayer in me hitherto left to my post-contemplation activity. One has melded into another.

I fully anticipate the return of the former ways of contemplation, more Eastern Orthodox in nature. But for now, my fullest experiences of the Holy are found in the existential thin places of the Celts. Transcendence is being experienced in messy immanence. I’m finding my soul’s middle ground. I bellow the fire of my spirit by smooring the fire in the hearth.

My ancestors would heartily approve. I know my wife does.

 

 

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Robert Alan Rife

Robert Rife, M.A., minister of worship and music for Yakima Covenant Church (formerly Westminster Presbyterian) in Yakima, Washington, is a self-proclaimed book-nerd-word-herder, multi-instrumentalist (including Highland Bagpipes!), singer-songwriter, studio musician, choral director, poet, and liturgist. He maintains two personal blogs: Innerwoven and Robslitbits. He also blogs at Conversations Journal. Robert describes his vocation as exploring those places where life, liturgy, theology, and the arts intersect with and promote spiritual formation.

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