Richard Rohr has profoundly shaped my spirituality in recent years, along with Desmond Tutu, Barbara Brown Taylor and Madeleine L’Engle. But one of the ways Rohr has both challenged and freed me is his description of prayer.
I grew up thinking that prayer involved hands folded, eyes closed, head bowed and then all the words. Maybe, as my Catholic tradition taught, the words were set like The Our Father, Hail Mary or other liturgical prayers. Maybe, like the my Vineyard days modeled, prayer was free form words (with eyes open, hands upon others or open to heaven and ready to receive). Sometimes prayers even came in a different language all together. But prayer was always about words, in my experience.
But as I grew, words often felt insufficient for what I felt and inadequate to express my heart cry to God. Then I began to experience moments of connection with God that felt prayerful – like I’d been praying without words.
Rohr names that posture of prayer. It’s a state of communion, connection, love. It’s loving union. It’s a stance… nothing we can always reduce to a ‘left brain verbal thing.’
So can I pray like Jesus? Can I pray without ceasing? Freed from the shackles of verbal prayer only there is hope of living in a state of communion and connection with God that is incessant prayer.
I need the tangible in my prayer life… I also need the deeper mystery, the communion.
P.S. For those new to Richard Rohr, I highly recommend his book Everything Belongs on prayer and the life of contemplative living. Each time I read it I glean more truth and dive a bit deeper into prayer.