This is the fourth instalment of 11 Ways of Dealing with Anxiety, an ongoing experiment in being present.
O God, make speed to save us.
O Lord, make haste to help us.
So begins Evening Prayer: asking God for presence and help, not to be alone in our troubles.
Prayer is able immediately to change the context of our lives, to remind us that, even in the midst of trouble, there is a bigger story than the one about which we are anxious.
As for mortals, their days are like grass;
they flourish like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
Prayer is the possibility of remembering that, even if your worst fears come true, God’s love for you continues unabated and life perdures.
Prayer, properly speaking, is not petition but surrender into God. It is giving in to what is the case. When we take our eyes off Him, like Peter we start to sink. God (or Jesus, Elohim, Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Tao…; to wit, that which is most real and fundamental) is the proper focus of attention. Everything falls into place around this.
So, why this body? Well, here’s the thing! Prayer is not assembling thoughts in your head and shooting them heavenwards. Surrender is not an idea. It is an act of this body. It is relaxing and opening all the pores, releasing all the usual defences, and choosing to open to that Other you already are. It is felt in the layers of the skin, in the heart and the viscera, down the whole length of the spine to the pelvic floor, from crown to sole. Presence is surrender.