When I taught High School, tutored, coached, and taught Saturday school, my wife and I also had very opposite schedules. The little bit of time we did have together we were feverishly catching up. After Seminary I was still wrestling with a lot of theological questions, but my schedule, hectic as it was, seemed to prevent any kind of inner work. A prayer life was non-existent. Time to pray seemed like pure luxury, even on rare occasions when desire was there. I hadn’t yet learned the importance of saying no and burnout was looming.
(For more on burnout, see my guest post on my friend Barry Pearman’s blog)
Mystic and teacher Andrew Harvey writes that a meaningful contemplative practice consists of five components:
- cool exercises like meditation or Centering Prayer
- hot exercises that cultivate an other-oriented compassion and servanthood
- physical exercises like yoga that keep our body aligned
- shadow work that helps us see ourselves as we are
- and prayer
I have written extensively about the fruits of contemplative practice of purpose, vitality, and inner orientation. But traditional, conscious, kataphatic prayer still has its very important place. Harvey points to the life Christ, fully aligned with divine reality, in times of great storm and stress, turned to specific, direct, verbal forms of prayer.
There are times on the path, especially in the midst of burnout or disorientation that prayer helps realign and reorient. It’s not something that gets left behind. As we grow beyond immature forms of spirituality and experience inner transformation, it’s not that this form of spirituality goes away, but instead is transformed, gains new dimensions, qualities, and usually, a wider circumference.
One smartphone app I came across this week that helps in this area is called Pray As You Go (PAYG). Take a look at the website, which explains the apps construction and sources. It’s intended for the commute, in the car, on the subway, in the nooks and crannies, but brings real substance. It contains segments of sacred music, Scriptural readings, and questions for reflection.
Take a look and take advantage of what most of us neglect or at least give short shrift for extended periods in our lives.