The Heart of Prayer
"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?
And if it is for your comfort to pour your darkness into space, it is also for your delight to pour forth the dawning of your heart."
~ Khalil Gibran
I have been a follower of Sean Astin ever since I saw him in "The Goonies" when it came out when I was in high school. I was deeply inspired by his role in "Rudy", the biopic of Daniel Ruettiger, and these days as an adult with young kids he is best known in my household as either Special Agent Osso or Samwise Gamgee.
Sean has been active both politically and socially on issues that are meaningful to him, and these days that includes an Internet Radio Talkshow on politics, Vox Populi. An avid runner for many years, Sean also produces a global, inspirational movement of sharing the dedications of people's joys, concerns, causes, and loved ones during a run called TEAM #Run3rd.
This past week Sean posted a blog entry on the Run3rd site reflecting on prayer. It was a remarkable reflection, and I ask that you share it on your own social media sites for your friends and family to read; especially if they're runners. But his reflection is absolutely for everyone, runner or not.
Sean's words bring up a number of really valuable questions when we consider prayer: something perhaps some of you do in a special way as part of your Lenten journey.
Prayer exists on many levels, in many forms and expressions. It accomplishes different things for us depending on the nature of the prayer. Are we giving thanks? Are we praying for someone else's well being? Are we praying for something? Are we praying because we ourselves are in pain?
Do we expect an answer, and if so can we accept it when the answer seems to be "no?" These are just some of the questions that arise when one contemplates the nature of prayer.
Sean's blog resonates with themes of empathy, affirmation, bearing the burdens of others, and the fundamental urgency of compassion for one another that can truly transform the lives of those who seek it. They are, all of them, primal foundations for many of the world's great faith traditions; and they are most certainly at the heart of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.
As a follower of Jesus, one of the profound ways I have come to know God is that God is the Spirit of Compassion. If one has compassion, the kind of compassion made manifest in Jesus' life and ministry, then one almost naturally lives a life based on the principles expressed in Sean's reflection. That kind of compassion can only exist in relationship. In order to be authentic, it must be both sent out and received.
Experiencing the authentic Spirit of God, then, is to be at all times in compassionate relationship with one another, and in so doing we celebrate our joys, mutually grieve our sorrows, carry one another's burdens, while celebrating and affirming the gift of the presence of one another. This is precisely what Sean's movement is all about.
And if keeping that actively in your heart and mind as you run; expending your own energy for the sake of and in the spirit of someone else isn't a form of prayer, I really don't know what is.