Sermon to self

Prayer is subversive activity. It involves a more or less open act of defiance against any claim by the current regime… [As we pray,] slowly but surely, not culture, not family, not government, not job, not even the tyrannous self can stand against the quiet power and creative influence of God’s sovereignty. Every natural tie of family and race, every willed commitment to person and nation is finally subordinated to the rule of God.
Eugene Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor, p.10

Sunday 24 July 2016

We are on holiday in France. It is early morning. My partner is asleep after the long journey yesterday. One daughter is reading Inkheart. The other is listening to Skulduggery Pleasant. The swallows and martins swoop and whistle outside. The fridge hums. I meditate.

It is tempting to feel smug, to think that I am doing something better than the others, but we all know, [as do you, dear reader] that I am not. I need to pray. It keeps me sane. It reminds me who I am and of my place in the scheme of things. And, in any case, smugness is just one more thought, another defence against the truth.

Prayer is a more or less defiant act of subversion or sedition. I sit. I relax. I settle into awareness of myself, this body. I open my pores to You. That’s it. Nothing else.

Here’s a little sermon to myself.

  • Consumerism: Prayer deconstructs of the ideology of consumption. When I ‘have’ You, when I ‘have’ myself, what more do I need? Really! (I should say, “When I am You, when I am myself, what more do I need?”)
  • Work-ism: Prayer undermines our constant busyness. It is not about getting something done. It is not about being productive. I am justified by Your love for me, not by what I do.
  • Noise-ism: Prayer is silence in a world that can’t stop talking, banging, drilling, and beating a drum.
  • Entertainment-ism: Prayer is turning my back on entertainment. The drama, the delight, the comedy, the tragedy, the striving, the battle, the epic story, the soap opera: it is all here in this life, this moment, this place, this body. So-called entertainment is not entertaining: it is distraction, diversion, misdirection, somnolence, sleep-walking through life.
  • Improvement-ism: Prayer unsubscribes from all self-improvement programmes. Life is not about being a better person.

… self-help books and websites, which commodify human life as a problem to be solved rather than a glorious mystery to be savoured…(Brain Pickings)

  • Individualism: Prayer disabuses a self from all self-importance. Life is not about me.

Most people, most of the time, and I include myself in this, have a wrong-headed conception of God. We think God wants us to be good: to fit in, to please, to contribute, to progress.

This is how we have been brought up to think and behave in our families, schools, and places of work. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this. Our life together involves compromises. But, we have reified an introjection of the parental-cultural-political-societal hegemony into a divinity. We have made God in our own image.

I don’t think this is what God wants. God is not our own obsessions writ large.

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