Brother Roger of Taize “At certain periods I sense that I pray more with my body than my understanding.”
Prayer is a lens of faith. It concentrates and focuses the holiness you see around you.
When I first began with the Native youth group thirteen years ago, I did all the praying and I was unsure of what I was doing. I felt like a hypocrite as I stumbled through words that didn’t seem to fit either what I believed or what they needed.
I have changed. We have changed. Now everyone prays and we write prayers every time we meet.
But they are not prayers to a Santa Claus god or a fix it god but a God to whom we connect in a strange dimension; a dimension of wonder and goodness. Sometimes it is music or a quote or a sunrise that focuses my faith and lets me see holiness in a new way. I never know what will call forth my response to be bathed in generosity and light.
I turn seventy three in one month and it seems like it has only been the last few years in which I formulated the lens out of which I make my decisions and direct my steps. As I read my journals from an early age I realize that I have always been forming and shaping the lens which allows me to keep moving forward.
In 1968, we in the Ecumenical Institute studied Nikos Kazantzakis who outlined an internal spirit journey. “We struggle to make Spirit visible, to give it a face, to encase it in words, in allegories and thoughts and incantations, that it may not escape us. But it cannot be contained.”
This became my lens of faith—to step beyond words and give shape to that which cannot be contained. What I discovered was that I struggled for words and metaphors that would give a shape to my belief without trying to entrap my understanding of God in a box. This is not easy.
I turn to the youth and ask about their lens of faith.
“For me,” says one, “it is knowing that I can start over again no matter how many times I mess up. I get more than a second or a third or a forth chance. My chances are unlimited.”
Another one comments “It helps somehow to know that I belong, that I am a part of history that I will never be an outcast again. I pray that I may never be forgotten.”
“Sometimes,” says a teen, “I feel a world opens itself in front of me and invites me in. It is when my heart fills with thanks or when I see something truly awesome, like the smile on the face of a street person. I can’t explain it but it’s like God is around.”
A young adult says, “When I pray it is like something being poured into me that I then pour out; like I am a big fire hose of water except it is energy that is being poured in and out. My lens is that I am claimed by goodness, not failure or prison or hatred.”
I offer one of the prayers the Native youth wrote for the homeless. In it contains their lens of faith.
Holy Creator, who gives us all things, both good and bad, we pray for our families that they may be kept safe in the circle. We pray for ourselves so that we may resist hard core those things that mess us up. We ask for courage to go a different way. We pray for those who are hurt or afraid, especially children who have too much drama in their lives. We ask you to watch over us this day and night. We don’t know exactly what to pray for but please do not abandon us, even if we sleep on the streets. Keep us as your children and call us by name so we can know that we do not have to be aimless. This we ask in the name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.”
Our lens concentrates and focuses the holiness we see around us.
This is a holy practice that requires work and a commitment to keep open to wonder.