Saturday, December 3, 2011

Prayer in the hard times: Our day with Barbara Crafton at St. Paul's

We had a very rich Saturday with author Barbara Crafton, and she will be with us in the pulpit Sunday at the 8 am and 10 am worship services at St. Paul's.

Barbara, who is an Episcopal priest, sat on a chair in front of the Holy Table and talked to us about a very difficult subject -- praying "in the hard times."

She imparted much practical advice for how to pray when it is hardest of all to pray, when God seems very distant, when the world seems to be crashing in around us,

She also talked about how to pray to forgive and to be forgiven.

Barbara began by telling us what prayer is not: it cannot be outcome based. We should not be thinking of God "as a powerful genie who will do what we say if we pray properly. We don't order up the results of our prayer like a pizza."

She asked us to think of prayer as a way we enter into and become aware of the kingdom of God, or the dominion of God, or the energy of God that connects all things in the universe, all that there is and ever shall be. She urged us to pray specifically and honestly, but also know that God knows before we ask.

"In prayer, we are not cajoling God or making God change his mind. We are not placating an angry king who has it in for us. We don't think God sends evil into our lives," she said.

"The creative love of God that causes everything continues to reverberate, continues to create," she said. "There is a river that flows from the love of God."

In our prayer, we we enter the river, or more precisely, we become aware of the flowing river we are already in.

When we pray for others we connect to them in profoundly holy way by sharing in God's compassion.  "When we pray, we take people's hand and go in the river with them."

Barbara gave us the benefit of much wisdom Saturday in her gentle and eloquent way. She is also a spell-binding story teller.  I won't presume to give all that we heard to you here -- I am not capable of that, but do come here her preach Sunday if you can (and I would suggest you sign up for her email reflections at The Geranium Farm website by clicking HERE).

She took us deeply into some difficult topics including how to live with our own death. She imparted to us a metaphor that I will summarize for you:

Imagine two baskets, she suggested. One basket sits inside the other. "We live in the smaller basket," and that basket is the universe, all that we know and see.

The smaller basket is our home, and we don't want to leave that basket, but we can see through the weaves to the other basket -- and those are glimpses of what is beyond.

"One day the smaller basket crumbles and we are in the bigger basket. The big basket is also my home."

The bigger basket is the Kingdom of God, and we've always lived in it. "Our first sensation after death is I've always been here. Recognition."

To live now is to live beyond our fear of what comes next and bring it to prayer. "Heaven may be what God intended for us all along here."

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