How do you pray? Where do you like to pray? What is it to pray anyway? In their book ‘Active Hope’, Joanna Macy and Chris Johnston include some thoughts about what they call eco spirituality (pp 210-212). This is about how contact with nature is beneficial for our well-being in the most profound ways. They suggest that we can know such as trees, insects and birds to be our kith and kin, in fact “as parts of our larger, ecological self”, for, “the desire that life continues is larger than we are”.
Some of us, I think, pray by opening ourselves up simply to what is. Jesus tells us (Matthew 6:8) “your Father knows what you need before you ask him”. So maybe our priority is just to be present for God to move in and through us. To practice eco spirituality Joanna Macy and Chris Johnston advise us to go to a favourite place, and there to think of “plugging in to a root system that can draw up insights and inspiration as well as other nutrients.” To receive guidance”, they assure us, “all you need to do is ask for it, and then listen.”
Part of me feels that prayer is not valid if not expressed in the right words – and as authorised by the Church. But I also know that liturgical prayer does not always engage my heart and soul as much as my lips and perfunctory thoughts!
But how could awareness of nature in itself be thought of as an encounter with God? Isn’t that the heresy of pantheism, implying that God is the world around us and that God and the universe are identical? In fact eco spiritual practice can rest securely on the completely orthodox Christian understanding of panentheism. This is the vision that God permeates all things, contains all things, connects to all things, and is to be met in all things. For nothing exists apart from God, and everything is in some way identified with God. The world is God, and God is the world because all is in God, pan-en-theism, and therefore we can say that God is in all.
As the days grow warmer and longer my favourite place to pray is in our garden at home in Devon. I’ll sit in one of the beautiful pair of seats given as a leaving present from the parish and open my breviary to say Vespers. But just as much prayer will be my noticing of the robin sitting cockily on the grass watching me, then listening to the wind in the trees and the wheeling of the seagulls above.
“O let the earth bless the Lord. To him be highest glory and praise for ever.” Benedicite Daniel 3
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Comments on "Eco prayer"
Defining prayer is a very tricky thing. As was said God knows what we need before we ask. I think that's why many see meditation where nothing is said but resting in God's presence, is one way. My background is one of saying one's own words. So I find that best. Sometimes I'm lost as what to say. In this situation God must know.