Thursday, 8 December 2011

Experiencing the Presence of God

The Fathers fight shy of any talk of experiencing God as they know that all too easily that can become the main focus of our praying. Part of the danger is not only deception but the distraction that takes our eyes off God and onto ourselves instead. But in her excellent book "Living the Jesus Prayer" Irma Zaleski not only acknowledges that but distinguishes between experience and a necessary awareness of God's presence as we pray the Jesus Prayer. This is what she writes on the subject:

"...the experience of the presence of God in Christ of which we are speaking here is not a matter of our own thoughts, feelings or imagination. It is a matter of awareness: of becoming aware of what is real, of what is always there, but that we are usually too busy and distracted to notice and pay attention."

We are not only to distinguish between experience and an awareness of God's presence in Christ but between the use of our imagination and our acknowledgment of the reality of God which comes by faith.

"The kind of awareness that the Jesus Prayer may lead us to is very simple. We do not try to imagine that Jesus is there, and even less what he looks like or what he says. We do not engage in any imaginary conversations with him. We simply try to be aware of him and be attentive to him in a similar way as we are aware of the presence of someone we love in the next room, or as a mother is attentive to what her children are doing, however busy she is. We believe - we know by faith - that God in Christ is here, with us and in us. Our task is to try to remember him and be attentive to him. It is this attentiveness that is the door to our experience of the presence of God".
Irma Zaleski: Living the Jesus Prayer pages 30-31

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