Prayer, self-knowledge & courage: The Emerging Journey Stage 2 process

Written by on November 16, 2010

The assumption that runs throughout Scripture is that God is up to something good in this world, in our communities, and in our lives. Our primary burden or task is to pay attention to what God is already up to, and then secondarily, to participate in what He is up to. Our Stage 2 process of The Emerging Journey is, in essence, a narrative exercise in using one’s life as a case study for what God has been up to in our lives. It is an extended exercise in paying attention.In my reading this morning I was reminded of this Stage 2 process when I came upon an excellent couple paragraphs that point to the importance of prayerfully paying attention to our lives. At the heart of these paragraphs Michael Casey argues, “To pray well I must first find out where I am.” Consider Casey’s statement within its context. He writes,

The worst thing we can think about prayer is that it is a trivial exercise – saying a few words or channeling one’s thoughts in a particular direction. Authentic prayer is not like that. It is usually difficult. This is not because it takes great expertise or is reserved for an elite, but because it takes a lot of courage. To pray well I must first find out where I am. Self-knowledge is never procured cheaply. To pray well I need to face up to realities about myself, that I would prefer to ignore: my anxieties, fears, private griefs, failures, lovelessness, my utter lack of resources. To accept the truth about what I am, as also the truth about other human beings, demands courage. If I do not pray well, it is usually because I lack that kind of courage.                   Once I have confronted and accepted – as far as possible – that I am a needy person, the act of turning toward God is relatively easy. It is not faith in God that is hard, but the renunciation of illusory faith in myself. To turn toward God means, first, turning away from whatever is untrue or delusory – no matter how much comfort it brings. [Michael Casey, Toward God: The Ancient Wisdom of Western Prayer (Ligouri/Triumph, 1996), 5-6.]

Reflect & Discuss: • In what ways do Casey’s thoughts here reflect Jesus parable of two prayers in Luke 18:9-14? •  Where might our prayers require greater courage? What illusions about ourselves are we afraid to turn away from? Where might God be inviting us to turn toward him?

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