In recent weeks we’ve heard what contemporary theologians think about God’s presence and action in the material world – and in response we’ve thought that these theories have made God sound more than a little impersonal.
If we are to view God as a process within and around the material world – creating it, sustaining it, and drawing it forward into its end point – then a vital question arises:
Can we make a personal connection with this God?
A few weeks ago, one member of our discussion group raised the question in a very concrete way, asking,
“Then why do we pray?”
Another way to ask this question is
“Do our prayers make any difference?”
As we reflect on our relationship to this God, here are two more questions about prayer:
What do I think I’m doing when I pray? … and … What do I think God is doing?
Almost everyone, in the discussion and online, sent responses to these questions. The responses not only describe your times of prayer, but your images of God. *
Here is one response – not one paragraph, but two poems:
I wait in the sun, rejoicing in
the goldfinch swaying in ferns above the pond,
the white lilies, unfolded on its surface,
the slivers of light where water glimmers,
the way my shadow
merges in the shallow bottom
misshapen images of fern, bird, and flower,
the way I sometimes allow myself to merge
with fullness and symmetry,
tumbling down among oaks and manzanita,
a pair of hawks in mating flight,
of a small bakery pouring herself fresh coffee,
a bicyclist trailing her baby in a cart,
a frightened cancer patient,
a woman of seventy reading
a blessing to her friends,
an old man, dying alone,
and I begin to pray,
May I assemble
the glory of the earth from your knee, Mother,
partake of moments, not infinities, of beauty
and journey with you forever
through nothing more than the present.
~~~~~~~~~Carol Alma McPhee
Carol adds, But part of an answer to the question about what God is doing is in the poem below: She is living through us as we live our prayers, having aligned ourselves with Her intentions in the world.
May the gift of ourselves be accepted by God this day and every other.
Afternoons she carries ginger ale
across the hallway to a neighbor’s room.
They rummage ice, pour two glasses full,
repair to their recliners on a small
untidy terrace. Over the way platoons
of mallard families patrol a wide canal.
Down by the freeway on-ramp an egret
stiffens in her hunt. The hum of shaft
on steel, the day’s commuter onset,
deepens as they sit, minding the waft
of fickle breezes through a patch of reeds,
the shadows slowly growing right to left.
Words come and go. Now and then
she speaks of yesterday, but soon regrets
this carelessness. Usually she concedes
her friend’s forgetfulness and repetitions.
She tells old stories, provides flattery
when needed, always trying to permit
the time they have to narrow to the space
they occupy. Only nearness matters.
~~~~~~~~~Carol Alma McPhee
* You can read all the responses in the comments, below.