“I cry out by day, but you do not answer by night, but I find no rest.” Psalm 22:2
As the first few weeks of the New Year have begun, my life situation seems to become more and more muddied. This is already going against the sense of nuance I can almost touch at the turn of every New Year. That certain image of a clean slate, a beautiful path or a hopeful discovery, all of which can lead me on rabbit trails of dissipating mirages. In the end, it often feels like a waste of imagination.
Or maybe like me you find yourself on a journey backwards into the pastures when you grazed on what you thought was nourishing for your soul only to find it more like chewing the cud of manure. Living in the past can open doors to thoughts of “should haves” and “shouldn’t haves”. The more you chew on the manure of bad thinking, the more it can lead to self-loathing. Not really very nourishing at all.
Whenever I am faced with life’s dilemmas or dead ends, my ego defenses love to engage at full throttle. The older I get the more I see my false self. The more I see my false self, the more I see how futile it can be for me to think I know much of anything. But one thing I do know.
The skewed sense of self needs to find true north; and this is why we pray.
I recently found this prayer that was written by Evan B. Howard. In the spirit of Thomas Merton, Evan gives up striving and pretending to know. And yet, the prayer gives way to a much more centered and expansive place to dwell and listen, thereby surrendering toward God’s will in perfect love.
“I choose to pray today, Lord, in spite of my own ambiguities. Intellectually, I simply can’t figure all this out. I have no certain foundation to build upon–no starting point. But then, for this reason perhaps every point is now a starting point. Although I have experienced You in many different ways, I have no affective-existential place to call home. Similarly, I can’t seem to find my way into a felt sense of ordinary Christian motives, even a sense of acting out of “the love of God,” although I am moved by a vision of Your Character and Your Kingdom. I choose self-examination in the midst of complex imperfections and mere approximations of discernment. I have learned to practice many methods of prayer, but none “works” with any degree of regularity, although I do receive periodic drops of Your grace. In my best moments I realize that any and every type of prayer is an open conduit for Your presence. Some of my most heart-felt prayers have remained unanswered, and I have no idea how much I am to blame for this. My mind is such that I am not very good at recollection or at practicing Your presence.
Nevertheless, I choose to pray, Lord. I choose to give myself to a ministry of prayer, as best I can. I invest myself into prayer, attempting to to make more time for prayer in quantity, and (by Your grace) to completely re-orient my sense of calling and identity through prayer qualitatively. I choose to do this–today, NOW–because You have commanded prayer, and because You have called me to prayer, both for my sake and the sake of Your kingdom. I pray in my freedom and weakness to You who are both sovereign and responsive, in the midst of a complex, interconnected world. I choose to pray here and now, when and where I can: in my cell, in my office, in my bed, throughout the day as I am able. I permit myself this time to set my mind on You and on the things of Your heart in these various ways, in Your presence.
I realize that I may pray in much confusion at times. I realize that I may experience very little. I realize that any “answers” to prayer may be hidden within subtle, interconnected secondary causes. I realize that I may constantly face a personal problem of evil when I pray, believing that You can intervene and yet never knowing why You choose to intervene here and not there, there and not here.
And yet, in the midst of all this I hear You calling, saying to me, “That’s OK, just pray anyway.” And so I choose to pray.”
Evan B. Howard is a true north kind of guy as you can tell by sitting for a while in his website. He is an affiliate partner and on our teaching staff at CenterQuest. You can hang out with Evan on his website.
Picture found here.