an inner calm

There is a beautiful prayer we say in the liturgy this season, right after the prayers and of the people and before the peace:

God of peace, let us your people know that at the heart of turbulence there is an inner calm that comes from faith in you. Keep us from being content with things as they are, that from this central peace there may come a creative compassion, a thirst for justice, and a willingness to give of ourselves in the spirit of Christ.

I love this prayer for the way it acknowledges the reality of turbulence—the busyness, flurry and sometimes chaotic nature of our lives today. At the same time it names the essential truth that is always present to us but which we often miss completely: the inner calm that comes from faith in our Source. Sometimes that inner calm is tangible while other times it can seem elusive or even illusory. Sometimes, in the busyness of living, I can forget this deeper reality, the stream of life available to me always. Sometimes I wonder if we want the inner calm but aren’t sure how to find it.

Jesus, who surely had endless demands on his time and energy, love and presence, made time by himself to pray. He clearly understood the importance of nurturing this calm out of which flowed the fullness of his life through silence and prayer.

I don’t know about you, but I find most of us are as awkward and uncomfortable talking about our prayer life as we are about sex or politics.  While some people have a rich and fulfilling prayer life, others do not. Some feel they should pray more, but they don’t really want to and secretly don’t see the value. They ‘check the box’ but don’t experience what they would call deep peace.  For others, prayer never even enters their consciousness, until they need that parking place or healing from illness.  Some feel they should already know how to pray, even if they don’t really ‘get it,’ secretly embarrassed that they don’t know how to ‘do it’.

By contrast, think of the hours we spend learning and developing skill in the areas of academics, sports, and the arts. We secure coaches, tutors, teachers and others who are wise and skilled in the areas we wish to grow, and we spend hours upon hours committing ourselves in the gym, studying books, doing math problems, mixing color, practicing a difficult fingering of notes. In the beginning, everything about it feels awkward and uncomfortable, and you wonder at times why you even bother. And yet, as we move through that beginner phase, we discover that the more we invest in something the more we learn we don’t know and at the same time the more it enriches our lives.

What is your prayer life like?  What does it mean to you?  How did you learn to pray?  Do you find prayer to be richly fulfilling, transforming even, becoming a wellspring of peace, joy, love and energy out of which the rest of your life flows?  Have you thought about what can be gained in developing our prayer life, in exercising the muscle of prayer through practice?

Several people in the parish have expressed a yearning to go deeper in prayer, to tap into the fullness available to all of us and to develop their prayer muscle more fully.  Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, by Cynthia Bourgeault, is an excellent resource and guide for those who wish to go deeper in their practice of prayer, and some parishioners have expressed interest in using this resource on their journey.  Others may feel more ready to start with something even more basic.

If you yearn for the “inner calm” in the heart of the turbulence of your life, it may be a prompting to grow in your prayer life.  I invite you to own that desire and take the risk to ask someone you trust how to go about developing that muscle.  We all start in different places, and it helps to have support along the way.  If you have the desire, the intention, the resources will unfold.