I can’t imagine prayer without preparation. Taking the moment to be still, the gathering of heart and mind to be present, the patience for arrival, the stopping to receive or just bask in adoration of the wonder and beauty of what some call God. This is what happens with the riffs, the solitary notes, the spotlight and in the darkness as a song takes shape at a U2 concert. I honestly can’t think of any other experience that explains what getting ready to pray is like. Standing for hours to wait for the messengers to arrive and strike the chord is as real to me as David picking up his lyre. Psalm after psalm arrive covering all the same topics, we are familiar with desolation, consolation, liberation, elevation. The theatre and drama at the heart of community and any celebration or ceremony are there in living colour with sound bouncing off the walls of the stadium and the high priests invoke the faithful to every call and response in a relationship founded on love and mutuality.
Ceremony and ritual are essential and every time we gather as community finding ways to notice love showing up and making the space for it to be nurtured, held, noticed is the act of prayer.
I have had a lot of ceremony this week. I have gathered with various tribes in my life. I have been held and even done a little holding myself. I have celebrated and been celebrated. I have felt the heart of community beating inside of me and reconnected with some hearts across time and space. I have known and been known. I have been at prayer.
Some say prayer is the noticing of God. It derives from an old French root meaning to ask earnestly, beg, or entreat. I have asked earnestly, done some begging, pleading and imploring. I have earnestly asked for the winds to blow smoke in another direction and begged for another chord to be played. I have honoured the work of others, been in awe of the generosity of generations being revealed in the simplicity of a hug and a laugh. I have been resting at the feet of Zen masters of facilitation and of course the guitar (a deep bow to The Edge).
Imagine if we were all out at the edge? On the cusp of striving to be our best selves, taking a course in courage to be a step braver, half a shade bolder? Surely this is an invocation? Yes Lord, take me to the edge of my discomfort so I transform and in doing so be transformative. I have been living on this edge for a while now and I am beginning to see signs of transformation. I am rising and sparks are flying. The plumes of flames are taking on new meaning, purgatory and the purging may even be coming to an end for me. Clarity is arriving and with it answered prayer. A very long intro has been played and all for the purpose of getting ready to receive. I am recognising resistance is still turning up, but it is not in a way that it paralyses, more in a way that invites curiosity for its place and what purpose it may be serving and perhaps to protect, select and deselect needs.
The generosity of older Aboriginal people and their endless waiting in this undeclared war of more than 200 years is a constant inspiration. The bonds never loosened from the land no matter how violent the displacement, the land continues to hold them in place inviting us into the circle. I am deeply grateful to these invitations and to those who do the inviting or broker me an invitation. From these invitations, I learn about resistance, resilience, patience and prayer, how to pick up the lyre and sing the psalms.
It has been a big week of prayer and answered prayer, of celebrations and ceremony, of surprises and magic, of divine intervention, of addressing audacity and being in community. The promise of liberation is on the lips and tongues of the prophets. My job is to turn up, to praise, give thanks and pick up the mantle and sometimes to walk away. The walk of the pilgrim continues in confidence that the sparks flying are all gift, fuel feeding off what needs to be left behind, keeping what hot what needs to be kept on the boil and enabling the consumption of energy be transformative.