Watchful Prayer

I'll admit that I struggle with prayer -- not the idea so much as the practice. Meditating, contemplation, things like that simply don't work well with me. I want to be reading, writing, thinking, watching. I expect I'm not alone. Indeed, I understand that a majority of mainline clergy struggle with this.

Maybe that's why the chapter on prayer in Jurgen Moltmann's In the End -- The Beginning (Fortress Press, 2004). resonated with me (or it offered me a way to rationalize things). But the key point here is that as we pray, we're called to watch and see -- to perceive outwardly.

He writes about our body language, suggesting that it doesn't speak to watchfulness:

We close our eyes and look into ourselves, so to speak. We fold our hands, so as to collect our thoughts. We lower our eyes, kneel down -- even cast ourselves down with our faces to the ground. No one who sees us then would get the impression that this is a collection of especially watchful people. Isn't it rather blind trust in God which is expressed in attitudes of prayer like this? Why do we shut our eyes? Why do we crouch down and make ourselves smaller than we are? Don't we much more need to prayer open-eyed, and with our heads held high? But if we are to watch, who is it we are supposed to guard? And for whom are we supposed to be on the watch? Whom are we supposed to expect? (pp. 79-80).

In our modern world, what does it mean to pray? What are we expecting to happen as a result? Whom are we expecting to come?


Country Parson said…
Over the years I have come to treasure the forty minutes or so that I spend in conversation with God each morning, and if it doesn't happen, the whole day gets off to a rocky start. For me it involves the liturgy of Morning Prayer, including all the readings and prescribed prayers, but they simply serve to open my thinking and "discussion" in ways that are new each day. My big problem is listening, but the hearing that goes with listening most often happens elsewhere in the day. Most others to whom I have recommended the same practice have not found it to be very helpful. So there you go.
Anonymous said…
I talk to myself a lot and give God permission to eavesdrop. Does that count? Prescribed prayers are good for group effort. David Mc
Anonymous said…
Sami al Hajj is an Al-Jazeera cameraman from Sudan who was kidnapped on his way to cover a story in Afghanistan and held at Guantanamo Bay Prison for six years. He was released without charge in 2008. This poem is from the collection Poems from Guantanamo, translated by unnamed linguists with security clearance at the prison.

Humiliated In The Shackles

by Sami al Hajj

When I heard pigeons cooing in the trees,
Hot tears covered my face.
When the lark chirped, my thoughts composed
A message for my son.
Mohammad, I am afflicted.
In my despair, I have no one but Allah for comfort.
The oppressors are playing with me,
As they move freely around the world.
They ask me to spy on my countrymen,
Claiming it would be a good deed.
They offer me money and land,
And freedom to go where I please.
Their temptations seize
My attention like lightning in the sky.
But their gift is an empty snake,
Carrying hypocrisy in its mouth like venom,
They have monuments to liberty
And freedom of opinion, which is well and good.
But I explained to them that
Architecture is not justice.
America, you ride on the backs of orphans,
And terrorize them daily.
Bush, beware.
The world recognizes an arrogant liar.
To Allah I direct my grievance and my tears.
I am homesick and oppressed.
Mohammad, do not forget me.
Support the cause of your father, a God-fearing man.
I was humiliated in the shackles.
How can I now compose verses? How can I now write?
After the shackles and the nights and the suffering and the tears,
How can I write poetry?
My soul is like a roiling sea, stirred by anguish,
Violent with passion.
I am a captive, but the crimes are my captors’.
I am overwhelmed with apprehension.
Lord, unite me with my son Mohammad.
Lord, grant success to the righteous.

Posted in Detainees, Poetry, Politics
Steve said…
The poem by Sami al Hajj could have come directly from the pages of Psalms. If we can enter into the pain of this man, we will better understand the plight of millions around the world whose poverty is the source of our wealth. It's not our freedom they hate, it's our hypocrisy.
Anonymous said…
I thought you'd like that Steve. David Mc

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