Developing Spiritual Lifestyle Practices - Day Eight: The Welcoming Prayer
Today we are continuing our exploration of the twelve spiritual lifestyle practices that Fr. Richard Rohr outlined in his book Just This.
The practice we'll be digging into today is what Fr. Richard simply calls "Welcoming Prayer."
Rohr's mentor and friend, the late Fr. Thomas Keating (who singlehandedly was responsible for bringing ancient Christian practices like centering prayer back into the modern Church) edited this prayer and popularized it.
If you haven't read any Thomas Keating, you should. I have two more of his books on the way right now to add to my morning routine.
At any rate, Keating taught that this prayer was a lot like the Serenity Prayer that is so much a part of the journey for people who are trying to stay sober through Alcoholics Anonymous.
This prayer allows you to admit that you are powerless in your addictions to things like power, control, safety, security, affirmation, success... any number of things that we are told we need in order to be fully human.
Fr. Richard asserts that admitting your powerlessness is the first step toward healing and freedom, but in order to do that, you have to allow yourself to feel your feelings rather than stifle them.
And once you have been able to acknowledge them, and then let them go, you also find the strength to release your desires to be in charge of everything, to control all your outcomes.
Here is "The Welcoming Prayer:"
Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it's for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,
approval, and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,
condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and
God's action within. Amen.
It's difficult to be present with our feelings, but it's something that we need to practice. They are not the engineer driving our train, by any means--although we often imagine them to be.
Quite the contrary... we are in charge of how we react to our feelings because they are just feelings. They aren't us. They don't define us. Feelings can be an indicator of what is happening inside of us, but they often give us false information about who we are.
Fr. Richard takes the concept of being present with our feelings to a new level.
He says that when we are feeling anger, resentment, fear, dread, worry, doubt--anything that we have resisted in the past or tried to shove down--we should let them in, let ourselves feel them, and then, according to Fr. Richard, we should pray the Welcome Prayer.
Rohr even advocates for saying things like, "Welcome, Anger." "Welcome, Fear."
This may sound absurd, but when we are able to acknowledge our feelings and then release them, we find the courage to push back against our base desires to run headlong toward quick fixes, to try to make everything better through our own control, our own power, strength, etc.
Instead, we simply embrace the present moment, and allow ourselves to experience God's peace in that moment, to know that God is enough, and by extension, we are enough. Henri Nouwen once wrote:
One of the greatest temptations of our lives is to live ahead of ourselves and not believe that something is happening here and now.There are plenty of negative feelings and emotions to go around right now.
You might be struggling with anger, fear, dread, anxiety... but you should know that none of those things are who you are. Feel them, welcome them, pray the Welcoming Prayer, and then release them. They don't define you.
Then you should find the the space in your head and heart to be fully present in the moment. You then can allow yourself to begin to embrace the abundant, vibrant, expansive life that God desires for you to live. Step more fully into that reality, and be filled with new hope.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.