Let the Spirit Breathe [part 1]
Laurie Gordon of Bend, OR, USA
Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me. -Doctrine and Covenants 18:2n
The morning is still and gently yellow with sunshine. A faint breeze rustles the leafy canopy. I anchor my wandering mind by listening intently, counting the several brands of twitters and cheeps, the variety of whistles, buzzes, warbles, and trills I hear. With careful attention one can discern the voices of at least ten different bird species. Some are easy to identify, like the scolding burr of an Anna’s hummingbird as it sips nectar in my flower garden, or the flurry of peeping flock calls that signal the arrival of teeny bushtits in the tree overhead. Other vocalizations I cannot identify; there’s a solitary whistler in this morning’s symphony whose rising and falling inflections I cannot place. There are also missing voices, expected but not heard. I long to hear the mourning dove whose haunting lament sounds the way I imagine God’s voice might sound.
So what does God’s voice “sound” like? As a people called to the art of spiritual discernment, this is a critical question. We humans communicate with words conceived in the neocortex of the brain, shaped by breath moving through a larynx, and captured with dark squiggles on a printed page. We might be forgiven for wanting God to “speak” to us in the familiar, comfortable ways we talk to each other. But “God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and God’s ways are not our ways,” the prophet warns. God’s ways are higher…and deeper (Isaiah 55:8-9). God’s voice sounds infinite love everywhere and all the time, but in ways that are strangely unexpected. How shall we recognize the call, let alone discern the invitation it holds?
Take Elijah. Desperate, he cowers inside his dark, mountaintop cave seeking God. He listens for a voice in the fierce winds outside, but the Breath of God is not howling in the storm. He listens for God in the earthquake but, no, the Divine Mover of Creation is not rumbling in the splitting rocks. The prophet listens for answers in the fire, but, again no, the God of the Burning Bush is not in the crackling flames.
Then the world falls silent.
“Awake, my soul!” (Psalm 57:8 NRSV)
The Prayer of the Heart
Early Christian disciples desired to take seriously the scripture mandate to pray “without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). The prayer of the heart invites us to pray “continuously” by repeating and returning to a prayer phrase planted for intentional reflection and deepening. Choose a word or phrase (from scripture, hymnody, or personal reflection) that has meaning for you. The Jesus Prayer is one form of the prayer of the heart: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” (Luke 18:35-43). Invite this simple phrase to repeat in your heart throughout the day, awakening your soul to God’s presence.
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.