Thursday, September 10, 2009

Poor in spirit

Imagine a time you set aside for earnest reflection or prayer. Thoughts seemed focused for a short while, then the concerns of the day sprang up, and you were again hooked by normal habits of thinking. You realized this, then tried again, with more or less earnest focus, and again your prayer was foiled. At this point, it is natural to give in to the day's concerns...perhaps leaving the scene at least grateful for having made the attempt, or guilty at not having less likely to try again. For these reasons I often am thankful to have at least made the attempt in the morning, before anyone else in the house is astir, admiring the sunrise, and as of yet not focused on phone calls. This first fruit of my time is a good start, anyhow.

So what do we make of this inability to break away from the world's cares even for a few minutes? Christian reformers described the depravity of the soul, that humans are by nature caught in sin's quicksand. I suggest Attitude is key, here. When, at the point of giving up on prayer, we are moved to return to it, feeling guilty, we have a few predictable choices: (a) continue in guilt, (b) leave prayer behind and proceed with the work-day, (c) acknowledge our situation and ask for peace. Since (a) is untenable for long, it must give way to something else. Choice (b) is the natural human default position. Yet Grace is found in (c): admitting we are indeed poor in spirit--as evidenced by our week attempt even to pray for a few minutes--to recognize we are unable on our own to break away from these earthly chains, and to plead with the Almighty for forgiveness and love and an abundance of blessings to be showered upon our existence. This is what God wishes for us, if we simply ask, with a correct attitude, and have faith. Prayer is not a one-way conversation, and God uses even our natural propensities--easy to be distracted, prone to fee guilty--to call us back away from ourselves. This, too, reveals a facet of why we were created as finite, so that our own weakness points us to our Creator. When our spirit is poor, we are ready to inherit the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).

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