“Thoughts and prayers. . . . As a culture, ‘prayer’ has become code for a sentimentalism that is mildly sympathetic to tragedy but is helpless or even apathetic to producing real transformation. . . . Some [prayers] lead to compassionate love: a force with power to turn a culture or redeem a live. Others lead to a sentimentalized apathy that is the equivalent of spiritual paralysis.”- Rich Villodas
In Chapter 4 (“The Problem of Prayer: A Contemplative Faith in a Thoughtless Age”) of Good and Beautiful and Kind, Rich Villodas asserts that many followers of Christ fail to pray in a way that opens us up to God’s healing. Thus, for many who feel lost, angry, or grieving, thoughts and prayers fall short of what the world desperately needs.
Consequently, Pastor Villodas underscores, prayer is not:
- throwing holy words at God; it’s about embracing a new way of seeing
- aspirational fantasy; it’s about opening ourselves to the reality of God’s presence, an act that forms us in love
So, Rich exhorts, the way to address this is not to give up on prayer. Rather, we address this as we give ourselves to prayer. Instead of praying less, we pray differently. In addition, the author states:
“It’s in the true praying moment that God heightens our awareness that we are already enveloped in his loving union, which enables us to extend that love to others. We are shown the wealth of abundance that has always surrounded us in Christ. This path is the way out of incurvatus in se; it is resistance to the possessed powers and is the place God forms us to live beyond our wounds (emphasis author’s).”
Above all, Rich encourages the practice of contemplative prayer, as espoused by the Desert Fathers. In contemplative prayer, the author notes, words begin to flow from a different place. With the capacity to change us, for the sake of love.
Finally, Pastor Villodas offers this simple definition: “Contemplative prayer is the unhurried opening of oneself to God through silence, Scripture, and self-examination.”
Today’s question: What most helps you move beyond thoughts and prayers? Please share.
Tomorrow’s blog: “A prolonged sense of attentiveness”