Prayer is awareness of our relationship with God. We are always related to God, God is not “somewhere else” but within us, around us, between us, as well as beyond us, whether we are conscious of God or not. In prayer, we become aware of this relationship. Such awareness can come spontaneously, perhaps in the heights or depths of our lives, but it can also come amid the ordinary. Often, as C.S. Lewis said of “joy,” we catch this awareness in the fleeting moment it passes, and are left with an imprint of God on the soul.

At other times, we become aware of God in intentional, cultivated ways and
practices. These could be formal, liturgical, structured prayers like the Daily Office, or they could be informal. Informal prayer can be conversational or reflective. In my own life, prayer has become increasingly reflective, a
contemplative shared silence. Desmond Tutu described this as something like pexels-photo-101982sitting before a fire, absorbing the warmth.

Like all relationships, our relationship with God has its seasons. Sometimes closer, sometimes more distant, sometimes going into the Dark Night when all sense of God’s presence is gone, and the old ways no longer “work” as they once did. The witness of Christian spirituality is that times of darkness are often the passage to a new and deeper awareness and practice of our relationship with God.

Perhaps the deepest prayer is a profound sense of unity — with God, with others, with ourselves, and with all creation. This awareness is not experienced as something separate from life, but rather the deepest connection with it. For most of us, such moments are rare, but unforgettable.

The Very Rev. Dr. John P. Downey, Dean, the Cathedral of St. Paul

This is the first installment in our Prayer series that will run up to the Diocesan Prayer Vigil in March. Click here to view other stories in the series, and here for more information on the Vigil.

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