God's Self-Disclosure (1)

The first lesson we have to learn about prayer.... is that it is God's activity in us and not a self-activated process of our own. (Mother Mary Clare SLG, Learning to Pray)

a) Prayer is for everyone .........
For ordinary people
To encourage them in their praying

b) Prayer begins in God ..........
To consider how our praying is formed by our understanding of God
To explore Christ's way of passionate prayer
To enable people to recognise and receive the Spirit

c) Prayer embraces the whole personality .......
To help people pray with body, heart, mind, soul and spirit
To suggest how prayer increases cohesion, health, holiness, wholeness, authenticity and authority.

d) Prayer moves us towards the Other .........
To examine how prayer nourishes radical and reconciling community
To discover how prayer fosters a communion of trust and truth

d) Prayer is practical ..........
To link the study of prayer with the experience of praying
To explain how prayer works
To explain why prayer can be hard
To offer hope when prayer seems impossible
To relate prayer to their griefs and questions
To provide some ideas on useful techniques
To sustain the praying soul

Five chapters, each divided into seven sections, to allow for daily study
The form of each section to model - as well as explain - the theological basis and spiritual dynamics of prayer.
Each section to follow the pattern:
a) Imaginative meditation
b) Reasoned content
c) Biblical reflection
d) Practical application
e) Further stories, prayers and "word structures" to facilitate prayer

The imaginative meditation is intended to focus attention on an aspect of the nature of God as experienced by the praying person. Each meditation is independent, but together they form a connected narrative, evoking the landscape, challenges, dangers and resources of the spiritual journey.
Imagery and narrative resonate with the emotions as well as with the reasoning mind, drawing on symbols which have a deep connection both with the individual subconscious and also with a collective human cultural heritage. Drawing out such images as a narrative affirms the pray-er as the "hero" of their own "pilgrim's progress", and can provide a creative language for addressing difficult memories and emotional wounds. Beginning each section with a meditation is one way of modelling the dynamic "Vision, Consent, Praise" expounded in the Reasoned content.

The Reasoned content of each section provides a theological grounding, arguing for an understanding of prayer rooted in the nature of God as incarnate in Christ and experienced through the Holy Spirit.
Each person of the Trinity is engaged in our praying: God's grace and steadfast love, Christ's humility, faith and generosity, and the Spirit's ability to "magnify" the significance of small things.
This vision of God's love for us is what inspires, forms and renews our prayer: opening us to receive, making us holy and whole, taking us towards the Other, remaining with us as we encounter the void. It is a journey into the Godness of God, and the humanity of human beings, in which we proceed by means of a deepening honesty and faith, and are sustained by the bread which Christ gives of himself.
This vision of God embraces a holistic view of the praying personality - body, heart, mind (reason, memory and imagination), will/soul, and spirit - all focused and directed through the discipline of prayer. It includes an understanding of faith as intellectual assent, as experience and as allegiance. It leads to an understanding that sacrifice, and a generous response to suffering are ways of "investing in the Spirit" on a road which takes us through death to resurrection.
This vision of God is radically inclusive
This vision of God is given its most potent expression by Christ in his pattern for eucharistic living.
The main thread of the discussion is supported by appropriate illustrations, and by thorough footnotes which point the reader to relevant Biblical passages.

Introduction

"The Communicating God" is the outcome of over twenty years' wrestling with the question: What does it mean to pray? Through most of this time I have felt a strong call to pray, while finding prayer itself to be very difficult indeed. As a student, asking Who am I? and What is my place in the world?, as the mother of young children and the wife of a minister, as a woman offering herself to God in response to a vocation, and as a person in middle life suddenly confronted with a life-threatening disease - this same question has absorbed me.

It is my testimony that throughout this time and even when I have failed to keep faith with God, nevertheless God has kept faith with me. Now, I am now profoundly grateful for the long years of slow learning, which have helped me reflect on the dynamics of prayer in a way that I would have had no incentive to do otherwise. However, as a daily experience, the journey has been hard - and remains so. This course on prayer has been written because I know that many other people struggle with prayer from time to time (or even much of the time). Please take courage. Please persevere. God honours your persistence, and will keep faith with you too.

Each chapter is sub-divided into seven sections, so it can be read at the rate of a section each day, if desired. However, the sections vary in length, and you may find that there is too much material in any one of them for you to absorb or use at one time. If so, do not let yourself become disheartened. Your appetite for daily bread is determined by many factors: the circumstances around you, the stage of your pilgrimage, the state of your emotions, the issues you are facing. Personally, there are days when I need a large chunk of stuff to get me praying, and days when a single phrase will do. So resist the temptation to feel guilty and feel free to dip into it for what you find helpful. Read - reflect - and pray - as you can, not as you can't. Regard the day's section as a storecupboard from which you can draw what you require. The rest will keep.

Each section follows the same pattern - an imaginative reflection; some discussion on the theme; Bible passage/s for reading and study; and some practical helps into prayer. These begin with material which could form the focus of a "quiet time", but go on to consider how we continue to pray at other times, too. There are also footnotes, which contain further references, comments and questions. Finally, there are some of my own prayers, offered, not to restrict your praying, but because beginning to pray can feel like launching ourselves off a high diving board: we have to do it alone, but it can be reassuring to know someone is waiting for us in the pool.

The first chapter focuses on the question: Where do we begin in prayer? and is mostly concerned with adoration, thanksgiving and praise. Further chapters consider confession and intercession; how we pray in adverse circumstances; forgiveness and reconciliation; praying with our "whole selves"; healing; guidance; what it means to pray through our pain; what happens when we pray with others; prayer as solidarity, and prayer as spiritual warfare.

Julie M. Hulme, Birmingham, June 2002

with the development of human consciousness a new power and potential entered the world. It is the human being, not the ocean wave, that bears the image of God. the power of God works exclusively in the human consciousness

does that mean that human beings have invented God? footsteps of God in the world were first encountered when human beings entered it. (like the footprint on the shore in the Robinson Crusoe story.) The argument would be that we need the idea of God, the worship of God, and God-centred stories, rituals etc. to express, explore and articulate a deep sense of what it means to be individually and collectively human.

If we cannot do that in a structured way, then it becomes diffused throughout society in lots of individual cults, and personalised.

What we want to express is not just head but also heart, and it is the heart that gives it power. Not emotion, but will, allegiance, commitment, purpose meaning direction.

Lightening from a clear blue sky

an adult with no pre-history
from Nazareth of Galilee.

- John a leader, teacher and master in his own right
- in the tradition of Moses and Elijah
- Jesus acknowledged him as such by seeking him out, receiving baptism at his hands
- learned from John the "wisdom of the wilderness"
- how God provides abundance/the feast
- John respected Jesus, recognise his quality

the impossible God, the God that is awesome and amazing and impossible to know.
Hidden, mysterious,
but nevertheless a God who has made the very core of self visible and accessible.
The God who chooses to become accessible through Christ.
Tis only the splendour of light hideth thee. (Immortal, invisible, God only wise) God hidden in long words but revealed through images.
God is hidden in a bright light. A light too bright for us to penetrate. (like the sun)

So the light becomes a human being.
Someone we can see, touch, listen to, converse with.
Someone who knows our life from the inside out. Who has lived our life and died our death and so understands what we experience, what we go through, who we are, what we can become, and who we long to be. What we long to see, long to achieve.

This is what Jesus means to us. He is the one who focuses the light of God and shows it to us. Uses the light to show us what God is like. In your light, we see light.
We see the light of God in a human face. Human hands, scarred by nails and roughened by manual work, show us how to live divinely, creatively, in a manner that transforms what we touch. (Hymn: Give to me, Lord, a thankful heart)

Trust that God means what Jesus says he means.

"God is working in us," wrote Julian of Norwich, "helping us to thank and trust and enjoy him." At the end of her book, "Showings" or "Revelations of Divine Love" she came to the conclusion that God was saying, "I am the foundation of your praying". God is the One who enables us to pray.

"From the time these things were first revealed I had often wanted to know what was our Lord's meaning. It was more than fifteen years after that I was answered in my spirit's understanding. 'You would know our Lord's meaning in this thing? Know it well. Love was his meaning. Who showed it you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Why did he show it? For love. Hold onto this and you will know and understand love more and more."

"Our God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man". There is so much that is incomprehensible about the God who holds us in his hand, the God who rocks us and cradles us, who swaddles and blesses us. Emmanuel, God with us! We do not grasp the totality of this in all its dimensions, but by faith we believe in the incarnate Christ....it is that same "God with us" who hears our prayers and who will support not only us but all others who by faith believe.

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