Contemplation in Action

posted Jan 11, 2017, 9:24 AM by Amelia Fannin
“What is the relation of [contemplation] to action? Simply this. He who attempts to act and do things for others or for the world without deepening his own self-understanding, freedom, integrity, and capacity to love, will not have anything to give others.”
 —Thomas Merton,
as quoted by Richard Rohr in this thought-provoking article.
As followers and imitators of Jesus, we are called to be people of action and compassion, advocates for justice and do-ers of mercy. But we are also called to be people of prayer. There’s really no way around it: if you want to be more like Jesus, you need to learn to pray. Jesus prayed with other Jews in the synagogue, and went up to the Temple to pray. He went off by himself to pray regularly. He taught his disciples to pray. Jesus’ prayer was about relationship with God, and spending regular time in the presence of God. Prayer was incredibly important to Jesus—and so it needs to be important to us, too.
Yet many Episcopalians have great anxiety about prayer, both solitary prayer and prayer with others, outside of our formal prayer during worship. After sojourning long among a number of Episcopal parishes, I believe that this anxiety is caused because, in the Episcopal Church, we often don’t do much direct teaching about prayer. And this is a great shame, because my relationship with God in prayer is one of the greatest sources of solace, reflection, and transformation in my life. It is one of the most tangible sign’s of God’s grace and God’s presence that I have. And if you don’t have it already, I want you to have it, too.
There is no one “right” way to pray. Prayer, like yoga and knitting and running and lots of other things we do, is a practice, and people practice it differently. There are two ways to learn much more about prayer in a short time this winter at Grace. You’ll see below about the Introduction to Centering Prayer workshop we’re offering, beginning Wednesday, 1/18 at 7:00pm. And starting this Sunday, the Church School families, children, youth, and parents together, will be learning about all different kinds of prayer in Formation Station, beginning at 9:45. We’re starting with something called Praying in Color, which is a way to pray for others using markers and papers to focus our minds and hearts, and in the weeks to come we’ll explore all kinds of prayer together.
Why did Jesus spend so much time in prayer, when he could have been doing more good works, healing people, and teaching? Because he knew that prayer changes us and prayer changes the world, and in prayer, we experience the presence of God.
In Christ,