Archive for the ‘prayer’ Category

Are you experienced?

Sorry for the recent blog silence everyone. It’s been a very busy time – we are opening the Stillpoint ‘Stations of the Cross’ Easter art exhibition tomorrow night at The Jam Factory (an arts cafe/gallery) here in Oxford. The image on the left is the front of the exhibition card which I designed. You are welcome to come along for a drink if you are local and are interested. But that’s not what I want to talk about today – I want to talk about experience.

We finished the latest series of Monday night meditation sessions last week and one of the comments made by someone has really stayed with me. This person said, “it’s so nice to be part of a group that talks about our experiences of prayer”.

I have reflected a lot on this. I think this person is right – we are very unused to talking personally about what actually happens when we pray, our personal experience. We can talk in the abstract, we can talk conceptually, we can talk theologically but conversation about our actual experience of the divine is quite rare. We would rather talk about the mechanics of prayer I think. 

Perhaps this is particularly English thing – we are just too embarrassed to talk about it. 

More widely it seems we would often rather talk about the form than the content. I for one am quite bored (and have been for some time) of talk about ’emerging church’ or ‘new-monasticism’ etc. etc. People make a living from talking about these forms and concepts and conferences and books abound on the subjects. But these things are just supposed to be vehicles which help to deliver an experience of God. We are in danger of becoming ecclesiological train-spotters, hanging around on platforms looking at the engines but not getting on the train and going on the journey.

To change the metaphor, we have become obsessed with the tools and we are often in danger of forgetting that the tools are there to do a job. What we do with the tools is much more important than the tools themselves. 

When we learn to use a new tool we go through some different stages. At first we are very aware of the tool, we’re very conscious of it. As we become more proficient the tool almost becomes an extension of our bodies and we’re not very aware of the tool anymore, we are focussed on what we are doing with the tool. Think of learning to drive or paint as examples.

Perhaps an obsession with church – be it new or old forms – is analogous to this early stage. I long for more conversation about our actual experience of God.


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