Awakening: The Necessity of Prayer for Inner Stillness
A Weekly publication of The Awakening Institute for Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Direction and Soul Care
Hi Everyone, I pray that you, at this very moment, are experiencing the presence of God in your day. Now is a good time to be still and let God speak to your heart.
This week we continue to look at spiritual practices that can enhance of Lenten journey. This week we consider how prayer can bring about inner stillness.
The Necessity of Prayer for Inner Stillness
It is essential for us to understand that our transformational journey into deep inner stillness is just that––a journey. It is my prayer that you are allowing this Lenten season to profoundly complement your ongoing journey to inner stillness. It is important, that we realize the journey is not something we do as much as what we are and what we are becoming. All the techniques of meditation and various spiritual practices will fall short if we forget that the journey, rather than a skillset, is founded in the relationship between us and God. Jesus says, “Come to me,” not so much to teach us something as much as to call us forth and to become who God is calling us to become, which is the image and likeness of God. There is a paradox here, as we are already created in God’s image and likeness, albeit as yet not fully aware of what that means in our daily lives. This awareness can only occur by God’s grace which allows us to enter into a relationship that changes our illusion of being self-created in our own image, into an awareness of the truth that we are created in the image and the likeness of God. This is a foundational shift in perception from that of the false-ego-self to the true self, or essence of who we are as created by God.1 This can only occur through a deep abiding relationship with the source of all love. David Benner speaks beautifully about this wonderful, transforming love relationship when he states;
“In Christian transformation, the self that embarks on the journey is not the self that arrives. The self that begins the journey is the self of our own creation, the self we thought ourselves to be. This is the self that dies on the journey. The self that arrives is the self that is loved into existence by Divine Love. This is the person that we were destined from eternity to become—the I that is hidden in the “I AM.”2
The false self must die, as we journey with the Lord, because it has deceived us into thinking that we are the false,self-created self, rather than the true God created self. This deception is the source of much suffering and steals much joy. This occurs because the false self is reactive to the many outside influences of the world. Why? Because it is in relationship with the world and it is this relationship that has given it its false sense of identity. This false “I” is where chaos and insecurity can, and often does, arise. The “I” of the true self however, is hidden in the “I AM”, which is the deeply still inner space where our true self and God meet. This is the place of inner stillness because it is the space where our true self, true essence, or Holy Idea, is in relationship with God.
How do we return to the true God created self that resides within us?
The primary way by which we develop our relationship with God is through prayer. In prayer, we allow God to love us into an existence. This is a forgotten existence that has been with us all along, and which we largely remain unaware. As God loves us into existence, we find a dramatic shift begin to take hold. We suddenly become less and less affected by the chaos of the world that so easily derails our journey and our ability to experience inner tranquility and peace. Prayer is where we find and have nurtured our relationship with the Lord. Prayer is not an action, it is a state of being in which we find God’s love protecting us and guiding us along the spiritual journey. The world cannot negatively affect God’s love for us. Nothing can. In fact, when we live in a love relationship with the Lord, not only do we find a steadfast inner stillness, tranquility, peace, and joy, but we also find that this begins to profoundly affect, for the better, our vision of the world around us. In other words, we no longer live life that allows the unrest of the world to affect our ability to rest in God. In fact, we find that everything becomes sacred in our eyes because we are now seeing through the eyes of the true self; the eyes that see as one’s God created essence sees. Prayer develops an awareness of the sacred and by God’s grace we begin to live out of the inner place where our true self and God meet. We then begin to find that life lived out of this still inner place can change the world around us. No longer do outward things detrimentally affect us inwardly, but now the inward, still, place colors and changes all the outward things around us, regardless of what those things may be. Our lives change from being stimulated and affected by the world to resting and responding to the inward space where we find God. For this to occur, we must be about the serious and wonderful business of prayer. Henri Nouwen called prayer “the only necessary thing.” It is prayer that will lead us to solitude, silence, and listening. Prayer establishes and maintains the love relationship between us and God. God’s love never ends, but for our part we must nurture this love relationship. By doing so we nurture inner stillness, tranquility, and peace in our lives, which makes space for us to hear God’s voice. The primary manner by which we nurture our relationship with God is by spending time in prayer. The Psalmist says that his love for God stems from the understanding that God hears him (see Psalm 116 below). Interestingly, the psalmist moves from thoughts regarding the nurturing of his love for God, to a time when he is overwhelmed with suffering and anguish. But because the psalmist has established a prayer relationship with God, he then, almost instinctively, turns to God praying, “O Lord, I pray, save my life!” This is not turning to God as a last resort. Instead it is the psalmist’s natural inclination to turn to God in prayer. As such the psalmist lives in a place where he knows God’s grace, righteousness, mercy, protection, and salvation. This is a beautiful place to live, because it allows us the opportunity to live and breathe and have our being in the Lord, so that when our souls are upset, we can without effort enter into the Lord’s rest. Not just any rest, but a bountiful rest in which our natural state is that of tranquility and love in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Experience: read the following Scripture meditation on prayer two times slowly. As you read consider how prayer may help you move inwardly to that still inner place where your true self and God meet; then journal your experience.
Read Psalm 116:1-7, two times slowly
1I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my supplications. 2 Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. 3 The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. 4 Then I called on the name of the LORD: "O LORD, I pray, save my life!" 5 Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful. 6 The LORD protects the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. 7 Return, O my soul, to your rest, for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. NRS
1 These aspects of our God created essence are sometimes referred to as Holy Idea’s. The Awakening Institute will be offering a seminar on the Holy Idea in conjunction with a discussion on the Enneagram in the Fall of 2017.
2 David Benner, The Gift of Being Yourself, 110
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Lectio Divina (3 hour seminar and practice)
April 29th from 9:00am-12:00noon
Introduction to the Enneagram (6 hour seminar)
May 20th from 9:00am to 3:00pm with 1 hour break for lunch
Centering Prayer (3 hour seminar and practice)
June 24th form 9:00am to 12:00 noon
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for details
Coming in the Fall of 2017
Introduction to the Enneagram Eleven Week Course
This is an Eleven week (27.5 hour) course into the fantastic world of the Enneagram.
This class will include an in-depth look into all nine spaces as well as their subtypes, wings, triads and Holy ideas, with emphasis on its usefulness within the context of spiritual direction and self-care.
Syllabus is now available; email@example.com
Want to learn more about the important practice of spiritual direction, or are looking for a spiritual director to walk with you in your spiritual journey?
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Coming this Fall
Christian Mysticism in Today’s World
Course Description: This is an 12 week course, (2 1/2 hours per session), designed to help the student discover the most important dynamics of Christian Mysticism, both in its historical context as well as the many ways it has, and continues to develop today. We will use a three-fold approach, which includes 1) Defining mysticism historically and what it means for disciples today. 2) Answering the question, “Who is a mystic?” and 3) the way of the mystic.
Syllabus now available, email: email@example.com
Upcoming Classes and Seminars
Introduction to Spiritual Direction
Exploring Spiritual Dispositions
Introduction to the Enneagram
And much more…
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Community Bible Experience
This is an encounter with God’s Word designed for those who wish to experience the Scriptures at a deep heart level, as a way to inner transformation.
Coming in the summer of 2017
The Gospel of John
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Something to Ponder
If you are a theologian you truly pray. If you truly pray you are a theologian.
Evagrius Ponticus, Chapters on Prayer, 60
A Gathering of Spiritual Directors
This coming spring The Awakening Institute will host a gathering of spiritual directors. The reason for the gathering is to come together in prayer and to seek discernment regarding ways we can, together, raise awareness within the church of how spiritual direction can be a vehicle by which God’s presence and voice can be more deeply felt and more clearly heard, at both individual and congregational levels. If you are a spiritual director and would like to join in this conversation please contact Gene Yotka at 321-298-8801 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for additional details.
(Additional to our daily Scripture reading)
Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer, by David-Steindl Rast
I Am A Follower, by Leonard Sweet
Becoming Human, By Jean Vanier
Knowing As We Are Known, by Eugene T. Yotka
Let Your Life Speak, by Parker Palmer
Desiring God’s Will, by David Benner
Walking In The Light, by Steve Harper
Thoughts in Solitude, by Thomas Merton
Incarnation: The Surprising Overlap of Heaven & Earth, by Will Willimon
The Mystic Way of Evangelism, by Elaine A. Heath
A Hidden Wholeness, by Parker Palmer
The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Henri Nouwen
Way of Love: Recovering the Heart of Christianity, by Norman Wirzba
Falling Upward, by Richard Rohr
Between the Dark and the Daylight, by Joan Chittister
New Seeds of Contemplation, by Thomas Merton
Love Henri, by Henri Nouwen
New! The Divine Dance, by Richard Rohr
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