Getting Out of God’s Way
One of the theologians and authors that Maryanne and I read and follow, is Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber. She first became known as “The Sarcastic Lutheran”: a tattooed minister and writer with a story of her own faith journey. What we like about her is that she tells the truth about what a real spiritual life is like, with all its ups and downs.
In her latest newsletter from her website The Corners, she writes about how, even as we work for God, our egos can get in the way of God. We serve God in our churches, workplaces, and volunteer work, thinking that we are doing God’s will, while at the same time we fulfill a different purpose–our own pride of what we can do for God and how important the outcome will be. I must say I was humbled by her words. I don’t always stop and ask myself this crucial question: Is what I am doing for God, in line with what God is calling me to do?
The same can be true for our spiritual practices. Nadia Bolz-Weber says that: We meditate and pray and journal thinking we are achieving something, but maybe our “spiritual practices” are less the way in which we become good, and more the way in which God distracts us long enough for God to actually get something done in our lives without our egos realizing what is happening and trying to be like, “I’ll take it from here”.
How do we discern what God is trying to do through us and get out of God’s way?
Father Richard Rohr, another spiritual giant and author, offers some advice: When we meditate consistently, the sense of our autonomy and private self-importance—what we think of as our “self”—falls away. Little by little, it becomes unnecessary, unimportant, and even unhelpful. The imperial “I,” the self that we usually think of as our only self, reveals itself as largely a creation of our mind.
Contemplation is an awareness of God that transcends the intellect; it is a way of meeting God and deeply listening to God’s quiet voice. Centering prayer, which is contemplative by nature, is a way of praying that allows us to get around our own egos and into the space where we are hearing God louder than we are hearing ourselves. Centering prayer is one the spiritual practices that answer the question of how we can get out of God’s way.
This week, I invite you to include centering prayer in your spiritual practice. This way of praying takes time to build, it is like a muscle that you must exercise for it to get stronger and easier to use. You may find that it gets more effortless as you move through your week.
Here are the steps to centering prayer:
1. Choose a sacred word to anchor your prayer time. For example: faith, God, Jesus, trust, love.
2. Sit in a comfortable, quiet place. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
3. Introduce the sacred word, contemplate it for a few moments.
4. Sit in silent prayer. If your thoughts start to wander or you get distracted, come back to your sacred word to recenter yourself. This silent prayer time can last from 15 to 30 minutes. If you are not comfortable sitting in silence at first, start with shorter intervals of 5 minutes and build up from there.
5. Conclude your prayer time with the Lord’s Prayer or a Bible verse that you love.
Notice where you feel God tugging at your heart. How will you respond to God’s call in your daily life?
Join us next week as we conclude our Relentless Lent series