a Silence and a Shouting

An extract from the book by Eddie Askew
available through The Leprosy Mission
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Books on prayer are published so often these days that to read them all would leave very little time left to pray; but I have been using one recently called It's me, O Lord by Michael Hollings and Etta Gullick. There is a description of prayer which is more of a poem and a meditation than anything else. Here it is:

"The important thing about prayer is that it is almost indefinable. You see, it is: hard and sharp, soft and loving, deep and inexpressible, shallow and repetitious, a groaning and a sighing.

"A silence and a shouting, a burst of praise digging deep down into loneliness, into me. Loving. Abandonment to despair, a soaring to heights which can be only ecstasy, dull plodding in the greyness of mediocre being - laziness, boredom, resentment.

"Questing and questioning, calm reflection, meditation, cogitation, A surprise at sudden joy, a shaft of light, a laser beam. Irritation at not understanding, impatience, pain of mind and body hardly uttered or deeply anguished.

"Being together, the stirring of love shallow, then deeper, then deepest. A breathless involvement, a meeting, a longing, a loving, an inpouring.''

Prayer is . . . resentment . . . irritation . . . impatience. Does that surprise you? It took me a long time to learn to bring my resentments to the Lord, as well as my joys and requests. Yet l think we should. Our whole lives should be, are, open to God and He knows what is there deep down. It is only by bringing our anger and irritations out into the open that He can deal with them, even direct them, for good. That is good psychology, and it is good Christian living too. And in the cleansing process comes the realization and experience of love - shallow, then deeper, and a real meeting and involvement with the Lord.

Lord, teach me to pray.

It sounds exciting, put like that.
It sounds real. An exploration.
A chance to do more than catalogue
and list the things I want,
to an eternal Father Christmas.

The chance of meeting you,
of drawing closer to the love that mode me,
and keeps me, and knows me.
And, Lord, it's only just begun.
There is so much more of you,
of love, the limitless expanse of knowing you.
I could be frightened, Lord, in this wide country.
It could be lonely, but you are here, with me.

The chance of learning about myself,
of facing up to what I am.
Admitting my resentments,
bringing my anger to you, my disappointments. my frustration.
And finding that when l do,
when I stop struggling and shouting
and let go
you are still there.
Still loving.

Sometimes, Lord, often -
I don't know know what to say to you.
But I still come, in quiet
for the comfort of two friends
sitting in silence.
And it's then. Lord, that I learn most from you.
When my mind slows down,
and my heart stops racing.
When I let go and wait in the quiet,
realizing that all the things I was going to ask for
you know already.
Then, Lord, without words,
in the stillness
you are there . . .
And l love you.

Lord, teach me to pray.