Depending on how you read it, this is the question Saul of Tarsus asked when he was struck blind on the road to Damascus…”Who ARE you, God!?” As I mentioned in the last edition of “New Mission Wellness,” even Christ cried out while He was on the cross, “God, why have You forsaken Me!?” In other words, “WHERE are You…in my hour of need?” Times of trauma can drive us to our knees or even cause us to question our assumptions and beliefs of the world, justice, God, others, our self and…even our spirituality (Janoff-Bulman, 1992). The spiritual journey can become so foreboding that we experience what St. John of the Cross described as, “the dark night of the soul.” St. John was not alone in his struggle, with “dark nights” being experienced by Therese of Lisieux, Mother Teresa, and yes…Tom Gray.
We are intimately spiritual beings created for relationship with God. Saint Augustine confessed to God, “You have made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.” The spiritual life refers to the vitality of God’s spirit within us; the dynamic inter-relating of His Spirit in the human spirit, drawing us to respond to His invitation to communion (Thompson, 2005). Research indicates that worker spirituality is the greatest concern for sending organizations (Hay, et al., 2007). Additionally, when workers perceive that their sending organization promotes and provides for their spiritual development, they are more likely to report higher levels of satisfaction in the organization, their ministry assignment, and family life (Andrews, 1999). With the importance of worker spirituality, as well as the use of both positive and negative religious coping, it becomes imperative to consider some ways to engage the spiritual journey and resources, whether in response to trauma or as a means of facilitating resilience. Studies also indicate that individuals turn to prayer most often as a means of religious coping following trauma. So, that’s where we’ll start. In following editions, I will discuss some of the other spiritual disciplines.
- Prayer: Prayer is a conversation which expresses our relationship with God, in which we are fully present to His presence. There are many means and expressions of prayer. A few of my favorites include:
– ACTS: using the acronym as a form to pray prayers of: Adoration – Confession – Thanksgiving – Supplication
– Using the form of the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:5-24):
– Presence: My Father in heaven…Holy is Your name…
– Priorities: …Your will be done…not my will…
– Provision: … for daily nutrition, strength, grace, patience…etc.
– Pardon: Forgive my trespasses…as I forgive others…
– Power: …provide me a way of escaping temptation…and protection from the evil one…
– Write or paraphrase your own psalm: expressing your true feelings, desires, needs in relation to God…even those you are afraid or reluctant to “speak” to Him. Then pray your psalm to Him.
– Contemplative prayer: Thompson (2005) calls this “a simple gaze toward One who loves us unshakably; resting in God, allowing the Spirit to fill and move us as God wills.” Some examples include:
– Prayer of Presence: With a relaxed posture and mind, being attentive to God’s presence. I often create the mental/spiritual image of being a child cradled in the lap of Abba.
– Prayer of the Heart: Typified by short phrases which move from the lips, to the head/mind, to the heart, or core of our being. The oldest of these prayers is the “Jesus Prayer” (Luke 18:13); “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” The short version is “Lord, have mercy” (kyrie eleison). I have used this prayer, repeating it as a sort of mantra, to help bring peace and relaxation when dealing with insomnia or anxiety.
– Solitude and silence: Related to prayer is the practice of solitude and silence. An aspect of the “conversation” of prayer with God is that of quieting and centering ourselves to be able to “listen” to His voice and the movements of His Spirit. In “Invitation to Solitude and Silence,” Ruth Barton (2010) suggests, “It is in silence that we habitually release our own agendas and our need to control and become more willing and able to give ourselves to God’s loving initiative. In silence we create space for God’s activity rather than filling every minute with our own.” Silence and solitude is a learned practice which moves us from openness to His presence, through confronting our resistance and exhaustion, into the valley of facing “ourselves,” to receiving His guidance and grace…ultimately for the sake of the larger community.
This represents merely a thumbnail sketch of the topic of prayer, but may elicit enough curiosity to warrant deeper exploration. I invite your thoughts, comments, and/or personal experiences (below the references). My prayer for you in this New Year is for a deeper, richer, more vital spiritual life and relationship with Abba.
Andrews, L. (1999). Spiritual, family, and ministry satisfaction among miss. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 27(2), 107-118.