Developing Spiritual Lifestyle Practices - Day Seven: Standing Guard


Today we are continuing our exploration of the twelve spiritual lifestyle practices that Fr. Richard Rohr outlined in his excellent little book, Just This. 

The topic of our conversation is what Fr. Richard calls "Standing Guard."  

The source for this particular practice comes from a short passage at the end of Paul's letter to the Philippians, which reads: 
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7
In essence, this particular practice has to do with prayer--namely, what it is, how we see it, and what happens to us when we enter into it earnestly and openly.  

Fr. Richard asserts that what Paul is saying here is that prayer is the opposite of worrying.  He juxtaposes anxiety and worry against "prayer and petition" as a way of contrasting the two.  In other words, according to Paul, you can either be anxious, or you can pray.  

Further, Paul states that there's a particular attitude that you should take when you pray because he says offer your prayers and petitions with thanksgiving.  Fr. Richard describes it this way:  "Prayer is deliberately choosing a state of abundance."  

In this way Prayer becomes an act of gratitude that pushes back against the scarcity of worry, dread and fear---all of those things are grounded in lack, permeated with "not enough."  Prayer changes the way see all of this if we are willing to enter into it fully.  

And when we do, Paul asserts that we will discover the "peace of God," which will guard our hearts and minds.  Fr. Richard describes the peace of God this way: 
"Divine peace is when you are not worried by all the things you could worry about."
In the old King James Version of the Bible this is described elsewhere as "the peace that passeth understanding."  Or more accurately, "the kind of peace that doesn't make sense, considering the circumstances."  

We have enough worry and anxiety to go around right about now.  It's high time we started pushing back against it, and prayer is one of the ways that we can do that.  

Prayer is really a subversive act, it's not at all conventional.  

On the surface, it doesn't seem to do all that much, to be fair.  We often pray and pray to God about things we want to be different, and we get nothing but silence... at least that's what we have come to believe, and so we do all kinds of things to try to mitigate that.  

I get so weary of people who try to minimize the lostness that comes from that silence by saying things like: God answers prayer in three ways, "Yes," "No" and "Wait."  

What they are basically saying is, "Suck it up. You need more faith."  That's not helpful to anyone.  

But if I'm entering into prayer without any expectations other than connection and communion with God, and my heart filled with gratitude... my circumstances might not ever change, but I will.  

Through the act of offering up my prayers, letting go of my desire to control outcomes, and refusing to live in the scarcity of worry and fear, I will discover the peace of God, which transforms me, and looses me into the world, free to be the person God dreams for me to be.  

I  recently read this amazing poem by Tiffany Aurora, which speaks directly into this very thing, and also into our current situation: 

Shelter
can be created
from wreckage

Wreckage
can be created
from shelter.

We are
free to choose
what to do
with the miracles {disasters}
we are given. 

I love that so much.  This is what prayer can do for us.  It's not about simply pulling the lever on the Great Slot Machine In the Sky, hoping that our request will get answered, someway, somehow. 

It's about being transformed from the inside out so that you actually become the answer to your own prayers... you become the very element of change that you longed for... you discover that you have had enough of everything you needed all along.  

And this knowledge will stand guard over your mind, and heart.  It will keep you centered when everything around you is falling apart.  

May this be true for you today and and every day forward.  And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always.  Amen.  

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