Contemplative Intercession

It won't have escaped your attention, if you've a living prayer life at all, that along with the miracles, the inexplicable wonders, and the answers to prayer, there are a lot of unanswered prayers. Most of the ones in the 'Childhood Prayers' section - for example - come from real life. Many of them were not answered or denied. They did not just from people who walked away from faith either, or who were horrible sinners to begin with. C.S Lewis somewhere mentions his childhood prayers for his dying mother. His mother still died. 

Jesus himself still suffered, died and was buried. Whatever came next, whatever He knew or believed would come next, in himself, He did not want that suffering, prayed to avoid that death.  I would like a few cents for every time I've heard "I've prayed and prayed, but she is still dying." Just as I would like a few cents for every time I've heard that someone left the church because their questions angered the people who heard them, or were not satisfactorily answered or were answered ignorantly with disregard for both history and what is actually in the bible. We'll be looking again at some of these things in the sections on healing and forgiveness and I'll say right now that I don't have all the answers at all. 

In the first place intercession is asking for things. Many people consider that to be the whole of prayer. Ask, knowing that you will receive and when you get it, say thank you. Now speaking as a parent, I know that no relationship with my child is going to stand for that kind of thing for long without suffering. I'm a person, not a larder. Not just for the child's good either. I'm glad that I'm trusted enough to be asked, so I'll talk it over. 

The analogy falls over though. For there is not a thing I wouldn't give my child if I could, and there are many things I cannot give my child, even things that he needs.  God can give us anything. There is nothing outside His provenance. And many of the things we ask for and do not get are 'good things'. I always enjoyed the answer in John Blofield's book about Kuan Yin. What happened, he asked, when Kuan Yin did not give the women the sons they were praying for ? The answer ? A Son is a good thing to ask for, so if I have a daughter then she will be very special, because Kuan Yin does not deny us good things without good reason. I'm still not convinced that this is the whole of the answer, but it goes some way towards making sense. 

You see, the whole of a contemplatives prayer is emptying oneself, in a sense. So asking for things seems at first sight, not to fit. Especially when these are things for ourselves. 
A contemplative's prayer is the turning of one's whole self over so that one is at the same time part of the centre, and not there at all. No longer the subject of the sentence. 

I was given this when I was very young, and frightened as I truly believe no child should ever be frightened. I did not turn to God. I turned into the fear itself, within my own self, and I attempted to blot it out. Night after night I would face each fear as it came and use the word 'Nothing' Nothingnothingnothingnothing. And Nothing was indeed strong, and blotted out each terror as it approached, until I was filled with peace, strength and awareness. Thus began my practice of the presence. Not as something added, but as a revelation of things as they are in themselves, filled with beauty, holiness and strangeness. I was never rescued, never taken away from the terror for long. But it never overcame me. The more steadily I turned into the terror, and denied its power the more G*d was with me.

It was as if, in turning to combat my own terror, I had begun to reach out toward G*d in G*d's self, and the terror being a barrier between me and my awareness of *That* G*d responded with every heart beat and syllable to dissolve it. 

I do not believe I was placed in that situation in order to learn, or that G*d had a purpose in putting me there. I do believe however that once I showed the smallest sign of fight, he was there in all his strength and glory, and that he taught me at the same time to love, forgive and live with real, living hell, and not be overcome by it. 

It is even so with intercession. Our needs and our worries come between us and the awareness of G*d as G*d is in himself. Some blessed souls may be able like Brother Lawrence to see Him in the immediacy of the bread we eat, but not all of us, and certainly not all at a time. 

You may wonder at the word 'Nothing'. As the writer of the book Cloud of Unknowing says, it may be any word, 'sin' or 'hell' will do. In my case I was gifted by the word 'nothing' for I was never to muddle spiritual light, the ain sof aur with physical light. Darkness, the dazzling darkness of God contains the greatest comfort in the world, this is the light which can never be hidden or extinguished.  It was also  an 'imageless' word, not to be mistaken with the reality of the presence.

Over the years, I have learned to use arrow prayers, prayers of sudden intercession or delight.  I have found many contemplatives who think of intercession as a separate thing from their contemplative practise. It has not been so for me. When I begin to turn towards 'that', I have found as everyone else has before me, a whole host of thoughts and ideas. It doesn't pay to fight them, as you already know, that is one sure way to meander and wool-gather. Instead, lay the Word, or the Breath along side or even inside the unruly thought. No matter how trivial that thought, it is probably what is really important to you at that moment. 

Perhaps you 'ought' to be praying for this or that, for world peace, or healing, but if what floats into your mind is your own sore leg, accept that this is what is important to you at the moment. Don't figit, that will simply start a chain reaction. Simply hold the leg and the soreness still in his presence. Most distractions, treated this way will disappear, swallowed up in the presence. You may even discover the leg healed, as if by an after thought.

However, along will come something else, a different style of thing, every so often. A person you may not have seen for years, a place or a situation. In this case, there is nothing to be done but to hold that person, that situation, that name, along side, or inside your word, and sit with it till somehow inside, it is unknotted, or absorbed. 

The power of this prayer is such that I understand the church's insistence on moral values. For as I have prayed in this way I have understood, or 'known' what is beyond my capacity to know or understand in normal life. Sometimes things that I ought not to know.  I have, sometimes, written letters afterward  which people have described as 'their miracle letters'. 

Some things are beyond our mortal understanding and strength. Yet so often we presume to instruct G*d in what he should do. Contemplative Intercession does leave it up to him, but not in a passive way. It takes our own energy and will, even discipline, to open ourselves to both what is materially there, and supernaturally present. It takes great energy not to be sucked into mere worry and thinking about what is wrong or sore, and to continually replace it with the word or breath that is the door of our awareness of  G*d. 

 All that energy, openness, and togetherness with him has a real effect on the world around us. I have seen this, time and again, yet it is not my doing, Of course the results of some of these struggles I will never know at all. 

Lately, whenever I have turned my heart towards 'The Practice of the Presence' the word has been 

Lord, who among us can judge ?


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