Lately I have been reading books with various perspectives on prayer and meditation. As I say those words, my guess is that if you lean more towards unconventional spirituality, the word “prayer” makes you feel slightly uncomfortable and perhaps even a bit tempted to skip this reading. If your spiritual practices lend themselves towards organized religion and church attendance and you “do devotions” on a regular basis, the word “meditation” may set you on edge or cause you to feel unsettled about where I am going with this.
Everyone do some deep breathing and relax. You know by now that I am not in the business of freaking people out or pushing my own ideas on anyone ( sadly, I haven’t always been that way 😜 ). I simply want to share a recent “ah-ha” moment I had regarding both of these concepts. A few scales of confusion regarding these vast, vague and mysterious practices fell from my eyes, and I was able to get a clearer vision of what they look like when I integrate them into my daily life.
I am about to give you a snapshot of prayer and meditation that I hope helps you the way it has helped me to take a step closer to being able to apply these practices with a bit more clarity than you had before.
Some of you might know that I am a realtor (this is relevant, I promise…). Because of this, I have learned how to take quality pictures of homes when I list them. At first, I had a fairly nice camera that I used with the lens that came with it. The problem was, it is very hard to take any kind of usable photo of a tiny bathroom. I could get a really good shot of the toilet or bathtub, but not both in the same photo. I was informed by my photographer friends that I needed to get a differennt lens. A wide-angle lens. This would allow me to stand in the same spot, with the same camera, but adjust the lens so I could pan out and get a broader perspective, capturing all the magnificence of the, um, bathroom.
In short simplicity, this is an illustration of prayer. Richard Rohr calls it “a positive widening of your lens for a better picture.” It is an “alternative processing system.” Somehow, many well-intended religious people have turned it into what Rohr describes as a “pious practice or exercise that you carried out with the same old mind and from your usual self-centered position…This practice was supposed to ‘please’ God somehow. God needed us to talk to Him or Her, I guess. Prayer was something you did when you otherwise felt helpless.”
Prayer can be juxtaposed with the word meditation, both referring to an entirely different way of processing life. Prayer/meditation is “lens”, the “wide-angle lens” that helps us to see the bigger picture of an otherwise narrow view of circumstances. And instead of seeing people with our blurry, tainted and selfish-absorbed lens, we can use prayer/meditation to see them through God’s lens. One that takes into account that their immediate behavior may be the reaction to and consequence of deep rooted resentments, abuses and feelings of abandonment or loss.
These practices take work. It is no easy task to invite God to “be thou our vision”. Rohr says “it always takes a bit of time to widen the lens, and therefore the screen, of life. One goes through serious withdrawal pains for a while until the screen is widened to a high-definition screen.” Most of us pray about what we want for us and what we want for others. It takes discipline and a conscious decision to “turn our will and our life over to the care of God” and let Him decide. To let what He wants for us and what He wants for others be the guinding principle of prayer and meditation.
When we widen our lens, we can see the world more clearly because we are aware that God’s lens is bigger and fuller and crisper than any prayer uttered from our limited, self-centered, ego-centric vantage point. Our perspective changes when we see through this lens of prayer and meditation. Views that were otherwise confined to itty-bitty spaces become fully developed to display the “reality” of how God intends for us to see the world.
And, you might also be interested to know that the real value of a camera, is the lens. I recently purchased a lens for my son, who regularly sells old camera parts for new and better ones on eBay, that cost almost 5 times as much as the camera itself. Because, it’s the quality and scope of the lens that produces the best pictures, not the camera (anyone else feel like a cheap camera in need of an upgrade?).
We have been given the ability to connect with the God of the universe, through the gift of prayer and of meditation, so that we can see and experience life with the mind and heart, and wide-angle lens, of the One who sees All, knows All, and is All.