Friday, September 2, 2011

Rev. Theodore Nottingham: Deep Prayer

"For most people ordinary life is characterized by the sense that God is absent," notes scholar and author, Rev. Theodore Nottingham. "But if God were not present at every moment we would not be here either."

"Creation is not a one-time event," Nottingham points out in a poignant presentation on "Deep Prayer" (below), it is God's ongoing gift on every level of our being, from the tiniest quark in the universe of the subatomic world to the highest stages of consciousness."

"Theresa of Avalon wrote in the 16th century," he points out, "that 'All difficulties in prayer can be traced to one cause: praying as if God were absent.'"

"The external senses perceive the immediacy of material reality," Nottingham observes, "(while) the spiritual senses perceive the immediacy of Divine reality in various forms by means of a gradual process in which the Word of God is assimilated, interiorized, and understood."

Says the 13th century Persian mystic, Jalaluddin Rumi:
"You and your intelligence
are like the beauty and precision
of an astrolabe.

Together, you calculate how near
existence is to the sun!

Your intelligence is marvelously intimate.
It's not in front of you or behind,
or to the left or the right.

Now try, my friend, to describe how near
is the creator to your intellect!

Intellectual searching will not find
the way to that king!

The movement of your finger
is not separate from your finger.

                      . . . . .
This visible universe has many weathers
and variations.
                       But uncle, O uncle,
the universe of the creation-word,
the divine command to Be, that universe
of qualities is beyond any pointing to.

More intelligent than intellect,
and more spiritual than spirit.

No being is unconnected
to that reality, and that connection
cannot be said. There, there's
no separation and no return.

                    . . . . .
"In the evolution of humanity's spiritual awareness," notes Nottingham, "we find that prayer becomes something very different. The great sages of all traditions reveal in their own lives that prayer is ultimately a uniting of human consciousness with a vaster life that they call divine. We can therefore trace the evolution of prayer from petition (or) asking, to intercession (praying for others), to contemplation - silence transforming prayer."

"We are then," he observes, "lifted out of the mundane consciousness which we mistakenly take for reality and experience the freedom and insight, and capacity to love, that transcends our ordinary way of being. The transforming power of prayer deals with a more attuned awareness, an exulted consciousness of the present moment, and a liberation from the psychological baggage that blocks our true identity. Consciousness is energy," he points out and with a little discernment of our inner lives, we can easily notice the difference in quality of our various states."

(Poem excerpts from Coleman Barks' "The Essential Rumi," pp. 151-152.)

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