InterPATH: Going Deeper into the Heart of What Connects Us

“Reimagining Prayer”

Through childhood to age 18, I was immersed in the Central Methodist Church community in Ft Worth Texas. The people were kind and caring. There was a sense of community. However, the larger story hidden within me was this: I was mostly empty inside. When the chance presented itself, I left the church. I wandered into college uninspired. During my half-hearted grind to follow my father’s footsteps as a P.E. major, a fellow student gifted me a copy of The Prophet by the Lebanese-born writer and artist Kahlil Gibran. It was 1971. I am exceedingly grateful to this day that this book found its way into my hands. What I read began to rearrange the molecules of my heart and mind…especially these words:

“Then a priestess said, ‘Speak to us of Prayer.’ And he answered, saying, ‘You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.  For what is prayer but the expansion of yourself into the living ether?’” 

The first two lines of this reading sounded similar to what I knew about prayer from my childhood, but when I read, “Prayer is the expansion of yourself into the living ether,” my very limited understanding of prayer was shaken to the core. Up until that time prayer was largely framed by my very contained experience of a minister positioned behind a large wooden pulpit with head bowed and asking for something from a God inhabiting some distant corner of the universe. But, Gibran’s words clearly communicated that prayer is something expansive that occurs within us. My imagination ignited. Since then, prayer and its frequent partner, meditation, have cut a wide swath through my inner life and career choices. 

What many of us know to be true is that imagination is a core ingredient of our religious and spiritual life and creative expression. When our imagination lights up, we may very likely have a life-changing experience, a conversion, which literally transforms our orientation. We are pulled down a religious, spiritual, or personal path…“energized by the consciousness which befits a human person who seeks to be fully alive.”  (from Father Tom Bonacci)

Father Tom, who founded the Interfaith Peace Project in California, and his associates, call this awareness, this learning “The InterPATH Journey.”

The ever-increasing number and intensity of manifestations of separation and division we have experienced in recent years, have methodically tied us in knots and disconnected us from our inner gifts of imagination. My offering to you is to reconnect with your inner life that is connected to the heart of prayer and its expansive field of imagination “which befits a human person who seeks to be fully alive.” 

Here are several other reflections on prayer and imagination which may assist you in reconnecting

“Contemplative prayer is a process of interior transformation… leading to Divine union.”  
Father Thomas Keating, Creator of Centering Prayer 

“Go sit quietly in wild places and see what wants to come talk to you. Get seasoned…Self-knowledge, mythic ground, attending to the grace, these are some of the things that will provide pushback in such perilous times. Retune yourself…know your worth. In the end, if you don’t know your ground, you won’t be able to know what truth feels like anymore. You just won’t….Take courage. I say it again: Kick the robbers out of the house. Take your imagination back.”
From Smokehole: Looking to the Wild in the Time of the Spyglass
by Martin Shaw

“So with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings, radiating kindness over the entire world, upwards toward the sky, downwards toward the depths, omitting none. May you be happy, may you be at ease, may you be free from danger, may you be loved.”     
Buddhist Prayer

“Prayer is not a position, but a disposition. Prayer is not something we do to God but to ourselves…It is not flattery but a sense of oneness…It is not words but feeling. It is not will but willingness.”              
Rev. Eric Butterworth

“O Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the winds, and whose breath gives life to all the world, let me walk in Beauty. May my hands respect the things You have made, and my ears sharp to hear Your voice. Make me wise so that I may understand the things You have taught my people, and the lessons You have hidden in every leaf and rock. I seek strength not to be more than others, but to fight my greatest enemy—myself. Make me always ready, with clean hands and straight eyes, so that when life fades, my spirit comes to You, without shame.”          
Yellow Lark of the Sioux

“Our relationship to time is what it is because we lie to ourselves about what we are and what we can do and we hide from ourselves what we are meant to be and what we are meant to serve. If we look carefully and quietly at the great teachings of wisdom, we can detect this message at the core of their doctrines and symbols…Something far deeper and far more mysterious needs to enter into us.”
From Time and the Soul by Jacob Needleman

“Prayer is breathing in and breathing out the one breath of the universe.”        
Hildegard of Bingen

“Prayer is an opportunity to participate in creation.” 

“It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without heart…Prayer is not a flight of eloquence. It is no lip-homage. It springs from the heart.”   
Mahatma Gandhi

Love always,
Ed Conrad
Oregon Interfaith Hub
Executive Director