AA Spirituality… Can You Talk to God? Part 2
We have looked at the background of our ‘talking to God’.
Now let’s delve more deeply into our ‘talking to our Goid’.
V Your Experience of God
Now I would ask three questions regarding God…
Have you experienced God?
How would you describe that experience?
Can you talk to/with your God?
VI Images of God
I’m going to turn now to some images of God that might help us to draw closer to the God of our understanding.
How do we understand God?
The BB uses a number of images of God… in Chapter 5, ‘How It Works’, the BB admonishes us to stop playing God. God is now our Director, our Principal, and our Father. ( P 62)
Other images of God…
The following I found in Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations, July 28, 2019…
Mystics are people of prayer who draw close to God. Some of them write about their experiences.
Sr. Theo Bowman is one such mystic.
God is present in everything. In the universe, in creation, in me and all that happens to me, and in my brothers and sisters…
As I list Sr. Bowman’s images of God, listen closely, and see if any of them appeal to you – help you grasp more fully the God of your understanding…
Like other mystics, Sr. Bowman found God everywhere, in all beings. She uses many images of God:
God is bread when you are hungry, water when you’re thirsty, a harbor from the storm.
God is father to the fatherless, a mother to the motherless.
God is my sister, my brother, my leader, my guide,
my teacher, my comforter, my friend.
God’s the way-maker and burden-bearer, a heart-fixer and a mind-regulator.
God’s my doctor who never lost a patient,
my lawyer who never lost a case,
my captain who never lost a battle.
God’s my all in all, my everything.
God’s my rock, my sword, my shield,
my lily of the valley, my pearl of great price.
God’s a god of peace and a god of war.
Counselor, Emmanuel, Redeemer, Savior,
Prince of Peace, Son of God, Mary’s little baby, wonderful Word of God.
These are many more images of God than the BB presents.
These images come from Jewish and Christian Scriptures
and from the meditations of Christians over the centuries.
Mystics from other world religions also share some of these images. . . . .
I find many of these images helpful in my meditative prayer.
Do any of these images speak to you?
Do any of them describe how you experience or have experienced God?
At times I use other images when praying…
I know that God is my heart-fixer and the doctor of my soul.
There is another image of the God which I have experienced in my prayer…
this image is found in a poem by the deceased nun Sr. Jessica Powers.
The image is of God as a ‘Repairer of Fences’… Here is the poem…
Repairer of Fences
I am alone in the dark, and I am thinking
what darkness would be mine if I could see
the ruin I wrought in every place I wandered
and if I could not be
aware of One who follows after me.
Whom do I love, O God, when I love Thee?
The great Undoer who has torn apart
the walls I built against a human heart,
the Mender who has sewn together the hedges
through which I broke when I went seeking ill,
the Love who follows and forgives me still.
Fumbler and fool that I am, with things around me
of fragile make like souls,
how I am blessed
to hear behind me footsteps of a Savior!
I sing to the east; I sing to the lighted west:
God is my repairer of fences, turning my paths into rest.
Isaiah 58:12 (Douay)
This poem and image of God certainly speak to my regrets of the past… for which I seek forgiveness.
V Prayer and Meditation
Step Eleven in the BB reads:
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
I describe Prayer as our talking to God. In the BB Steps Three ( P 63) and Seven ( P 73 ) have beautiful Prayers.
These Prayers are our talking to God and asking for something…
Prayers can also be thanksgiving and repentance (BB, P 86).
In his Twelve and Twelve Chapter on the Eleventh
As the body can fail its purpose with lack of nourishment, so can the soul. We all need the light of God’s reality, the nourishment of His strength, and the atmosphere of His grace. To an amazing extent the facts of AA life confirm this. (P 98)
In Twelve and Twelve Bill describes Prayer and then Meditation.
When describing ‘Prayer’ Bill W says it is “the raising of the mind and heart to God” – a very traditional description of prayer. (P. 102).
When describing Prayer I like Mother Theresa’s description…
Prayer is making room for God in our heart…
We make room for God alongside of all our worries, fears, angers, and resentments.
We take time away from our smart phones and ipads.
Bill W mostly deals with what I would describe as Intercessory Prayer… asking for something…
Asking for God’s will is highlighted, along with asking for favors from God.
We relax and clear our minds.
We might then use the 3rd Step Prayer or the 7th Step Prayer.
When praying we might…
1) ask for something (Intercession),
2) give thanks (Thanksgiving),
3) say we’re sorry about something (Repent) or
4) just praise God (Praise).
These are the four traditional movements of Prayer… talking to God.
5.) We might also just talk to God, telling God what’s going on in our lives.
I would describe Meditation as our listening to God.
Meditation is a little different than Prayer.
Meditation is more listening to God.
In Twelve and Twelve Bill W suggests quietly reflecting on the Prayer of St. Francis… (See PP 99 – 100)
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…
He suggests we…
Reread this prayer several times very slowly,
savoring every word
and trying to take in the meaning of each phrase and idea. (P 99)
At this point I want to make several suggestions to develop Bill’s thought further…
Our Sacred Space
Before talking about Relaxing, I would like to describe some helpful aids to our prayer life…
Questions # 1… Do you have a prayer space in your residence?
Many prayerful people find a ‘prayer space’ helpful.
This could be anywhere that is quiet and perhaps a bit secluded in your residence. It might be a small table or a desk with a comfortable chair. On the table or desk, you might have a Bible, a Crucifix, a candle, a journal, a favorite spiritual book or any combination of these. It helps if the space is near a window which overlooks some pleasant scenery – not necessary, but helpful.
This is your ‘sacred space’ where you go to pray.
Question # 2… Do you have a prayer time?
It helps if you have 15 to 30 minutes each day set aside for your prayer in your prayer space. Many people find this works for them. Be sure it’s a time when you are not too tired or worn out.
Question # 3… How do you begin your prayer?
If you come in from work or from a busy day, go to your prayer space, sit down and begin to pray… good luck.
My guess is that you will be distracted and find it hard to pray.
If you begin your prayer early in your day or late in the day,
Here is an exercise I suggest before you begin your prayer time.
To help us to meditate Bill suggests a method of relaxing…
We image ourselves…
As though lying upon a sunlit a beach,
let us relax and breathe deeply
of the spiritual atmosphere with which the grace of this prayer surrounds us. (P 100)
I want to describe more fully the ‘relaxing techniques’ Bill W suggests in Twelve and Twelve, P 100.
Sit in a comfortable chair and take some deep breaths. Relax.
Let your shoulders droop and breathe deeply.
Take your thoughts, your worries, your fears and your troubles from the day and let them float away. If they return, just push them away gently. You are not going to focus on these. You are at prayer.
Perhaps even put on some quiet music if you wish.
After several quiet moments you are ready to meditate…
Read through the Reading you’ve chosen two or three times slowly.
Does any phrase or idea touch you or speak to you or impress you?
Let it sink in and repeat it several times.
Try to talk to God about that phrase or idea.
Repeat it several times again… and maybe just sit with it.
You can repeat it during the day as often as you want to or need to.
The Psalms are good for this type of Meditation… They are beautiful prayers.
Psalm 23… The Good Shepherd
Psalm 25… God’s Forgiveness
Psalm 27… Trust in God
Psalm 42… Longing for god
Psalm 51… Repentance
Psalm 111… Thanksgiving
Psalm 130… Out of the Depths
Psalm 139… God Knows Us and Loves Us
(For a more detailed method of praying this way, see Appendix, Lectio Divina.
Hopefully this conference has helped us to deepen our understanding of Step Eleven and growing our Prayer and Meditation.
The Appendix below gives a few more resources.
Appendix… Prayers and Lectio Divina
Rabbi Abe Heschel on Prayer
“All things have a home: the bee has a hive, the bird has a nest. For the soul, home is where prayer is, and a soul without prayer is a soul without a home… Continuity, permanence, intimacy, authenticity and earnestness are its attributes.
I enter this home as a suppliant and emerge as a witness. I enter as a stranger and emerge as next of kin. I may enter spiritually shapeless, inwardly disfigured and emerge wholly changed…
We pray because our grasp of the depth of suffering is comparable to the grasp of a butterfly flying over the Grand Canyon.”
Today I will pray:
May “all beings” be happy, healthy, and whole.
May they have love, warmth, and affection.
May they be protected from harm, and free from fear.
May they be alive, engaged and joyful.
May “all beings” enjoy inner peace and ease
May that peace expand into their world and
Throughout the entire universe.
Lectio Divina (Translated as Divine Reading) (See, A Retreat with the Psalms, Enders and Liebert, Paulist Press, 2001, pp 21ff)
Remember… Meditation is a form of prayer that ‘let’s God talk to us, lets God move us’.
Lectio Divina is a monastic form of meditative prayer,
It might be described as having a conversation with a text
No set amount of time… just what feeds the soul / 10 min at the beginning.
Choose a text… could be the Bible, or something from spiritual reading…
Your chosen text could be one of the psalms,
or one of the stories of Jesus or the Passion of Jesus…
or the Prayer of St. Francis… (Twelve and Twelve, P 99)
Four movements of Lectio Divina
Read (lectio) - read and reread… maybe even out loud (esp if the psalms) … till something feeds you and/or you desire to pause.
Meditation (meditatio) – repeat the word or phrase that fed you, turn it over in your mind…til you feel like stopping…. (This leads to memorizing the text or phrase, which then gives you words when you have no words of your own for prayer… and it gives you something to go back to during the day, time and time again…the text becomes your own.)
Prayer (oratio) – the text sooner or later evokes a response to God…when the time comes you will feel like moving to petition, thanksgiving, praise, or repentance, or simply talking to God.
Contemplation (contemplatio) – the process can lead to simply resting in God’s presence, allowing God to nourish, love, heal, challenge, or teach you.
At any time during this process the mind can wander and we can become distracted… or we can simply “dry up” …Simply return to the lectio if you want to continue the prayer.
Lectio Divina need not proceed according to the steps outlined… you can move from lectio to oratio to comtemplatio, then back to oratio and meditatio…
You might want to take a few moments after your prayer to write down the major movements which you experienced…. What happened?
Keeping a prayer journal can be helpful…
Be patient with this type of prayer, and perhaps talk it over with your spiritual director or with a spiritually mature friend. Don’t be a loner.