I've been thinking a lot about what to write in response to Week 6 of God in the Yard. Notice that I said "thinking" and not "praying."
Ironic, that, since week 6 is about prayer and God's presence.
Ironic, too, that since I've been pondering prayer, it's gotten harder for me. To make sense of that, I have to explain.
I, like many, pray on a lot of different levels. Sometimes I just sit with God, appreciating presence and silence. I usually do this in the dim light of early morning, when the day's hustle hasn't started and I can still find time to sit with my tea and practice just being. Other times I give him my heart in words, walking through the situations I know of where his help is needed, sometimes asking for specifics, and others just holding the names of the ones I'm praying for before him, because he knows what they need. And sometimes I pray short, desperate prayers, "Please help the baby sleep, please, please, please," and "Jesus, what do I do?"
One link between all these types of prayer is that I often have the same image come to mind when I'm praying them. I'm in a large, greystone cathedral. Sometimes I'm alone, sometimes there are others. Jesus is sitting on a stool in the crossing, on a small platform with steps all around. Those who want can come sit or kneel on the steps to touch his hands or his robe as they pray. Sometimes I go, and other times I sit in a seat where I can just see him.
It was in the midst of one of these short prayers last week that the image changed in a way that shook me. I looked up while I was praying, as I often do, to see his eyes. But instead of eyes, there was nothing. Just a robe draped over a chair. No one was listening, no one could hear me, and I might as well have been talking to the air.
Now, I know that having images for prayer can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, images help imaginative people like me gain a better understanding of what they're doing. On the other hand, no image of God is perfect, and so there's nothing that can represent the fullness of him. In my own prayer life, I've found that these images come and go, that one that helps me pray for a while won't be there forever, and might disappear quite suddenly.
But I've never had one go bad quite like this one did. I felt startled, to say the least, when I looked up and didn't see Jesus there. And now I wonder . . . will he be there when I go back?
There's a lot of things that could have happened here, and I'm taking my time to discern what I'm to take away from this experience. I'm praying through it, without images because I don't feel like I can trust them right now. But in the meantime, I don't have much to say about prayer.