I’ve done a lot of posts lately about rethinking the images of God that inform our spiritual lives.
To sum up, we’re exploring what kind of spiritual journey we experience if we begin to describe God with non-person images– We’re using movement and presence metaphors; images like… “God as rhythm,” or “God as river,” God as the “Ground of our Being.”
One question that often comes up when people wrestle through such seismic shifts in their spiritual lives, is…
“what happens to prayer when we are not praying to ‘our Father who art in heaven.”
As a side note, it is interesting that the question even comes up. Most people whose journey moves away from person-images of God, have simply stopped praying. This happened long before they consider the implications of God-images, or before the question even comes up.
My own community is a band of Christian outcasts, misfits, and burnouts. To ask one another to pray, sometimes feels like asking a soldier with PTSD to take another tour.
But in any case, the question comes up…
“What does prayer mean, if we’re not praying to ‘our Father who art in heaven?’”
Of course, contemplative prayer, meditation, examen of consciousness, and so forth make sense. They aren’t forms of prayer that are directed to a “God-out-there.” They’re more practices of quieting the soul to hear the Divine Inner Voice.
But what about praying for somebody; praying for something?
In the last series of posts, we used the image of Ground, or Soil to help us think about God.
How does one pray to dirt? We’ll think about that in this series of posts.
When we are young, we think concretely. It’s just the way our brains work.
Consequently, we frame our visceral ideas about God in very concrete terms. For most, those concrete terms are exclusively parental. If we don’t think of God as a Father, we think in images like King, or Judge, or Bridegroom. In any case, it is a personified metaphor.
And, when we are young, we pray.
So, of course we pray to a concrete, person-God.
And being one of the most intimate and spiritual things we do, prayer touches something deep within us. Consequently, when we prayed as children, we did so inextricably linked to an image of a larger-than-life parent up in heaven.
One does not change these deeply held, visceral associations easily. Even when the journey takes us beyond person-images of God, our sense of prayer often remains tied to the man in the sky.
And when the sky-man goes away, without ever considering it… most of us simply stop praying.
I’ll suggest in this series of posts, that we don’t have to.
I’ll suggest that there is a way to pray for others that works when we experience the spiritual journey through non-person ways of thinking about God.
Keep checking in.
If you don’t mind a little levity here: When I was a child, I prayed to a God whose name was Howard –
“Our father who are in Heaven, Howard art thy name…”
Whether this strikes you as funny or not, it is actually true.