Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Cutting Through

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Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
And if I die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Prayer has always been a part of my life. I was taught several prayers as a child (but I was praying my own all along).

“Dear God. I’m sorry I stepped on that bug. It was mean and I’m sorry. --Amen.”

“Dear God. Please make Michael stop punching me. --Amen.”

“Dear God. Please help me walk through this fence. --Amen.”

Many weren’t answered, or answered in ways I did not expect. Most were prayers of request, a plea for help, a desire for something I wanted. The ones that made me feel good were the ones of gratitude.

“Dear God. Thank you for my mom. --Amen.”

“Dear God. Thank you for all the good stuff You give me.--Amen."

Not the rote prayers, the ones for bed time, for meals.

God is great,
God is good,
Now we thank Him
for our food.
By His hands
We are fed
Thank You Lord,
For our daily bread.

They are simple, easy to say, but soon, through repititions, tend to lose meaning.

For many prayer is about requests. Nothing wrong with asking God about or for anything, anything. But if we limit Him to an automated treat dispenser we are missing real blessings.

People ask Him for things frequently. But I think they recognize prayer is more than that. I think people see prayer as communication with an all hearing, all knowing God. Which is true, as far as it goes. But some thoughts occurr...

I think prayer is more. I think prayer cuts through everything. It cuts through the boundaries of our four dimensional universe... it cuts through the realms of angels, and into the place that binds all things together... the realm of the Lord God Almighty.

(Perhaps the Pillar of Fire & Smoke of Moses was a tear through space-time, revealing a part of what is hidden?)

I suspect spiritual realms are every bit as physical as this one.

I believe they are more physical, more real than this “reality.”

I think this reality is embedded within the other.

I surmise we are enclosed by a greater reality, one in which time stretches into two dimensions, permitting us to move about in it, tarry in it. All of creation is enclosed within an even greater reality, one which holds the entire universe together, including the realm of angels.

Perhaps prayer travels to the one place where we are true, where we exist beyond what we know. It is the power of a conscious mind, powered by a believing heart, expressing who we truly are: eternal souls.

We are more than we believe. I think a physical body, constrained to four dimensions, blinds us to who we truly are. Our minds are hampered by an organic brain, our spirits are entrapped in a carnal cage, Hamlet’s “mortal coil.”

Prayer has the power to move mountains because, in the larger, truer view, mountains are small things, merely 4-D matter.

There are vertical prayers. They exist to connect us to the Lord, to open ourselves to Him, to offer worship, praises, gratitude.

And not because He is a megalomaniac demanding praise, but because He is worship, praise, gratitude... In a word, LOVE personified. we feel like such things (worship, praise, gratitude) when we draw near to Him. Even when we draw near while we are hurting.

There are horizontal prayers, times when we seek to spread His blessings to others.

There are prayers of joy and rejoicing. Prayers through which we pour out our happiness. (Those are so good for us!) Sometimes I pray while walking in the woods and fields nearby, usually along the Willamette River. When I sing out there, in His creation, the worship becomes prayers of gladness which replenish me. (What a privilege!)

This isn’t to say that memorized prayers are not wonderful prayers in themselves (but they should be said from the heart). They are prayers designed to guide us. Some are better than others:

Our Father, who Art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name! Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, Forever. --Amen.

Each day about a dozen of us find a conference room each morning to hold hands and say this prayer. We've been doing so for six years. A great way to start the day.

We have a prayer room at church. The first year it was packed with images, scriptures, prayers (click to enlarge all pics):

I made a few contributions. I prayed, and when I felt the urge, I drew,

or wrote my prayers on the walls.

I did The Lord’s Prayer around a figure of Jesus I had made behind the door.

The prayer wrapped around the corner, over and around the door, and back up between previous prayers.

When Easter came around again we painted it over and I started over. I did the Lord’s Prayer again in Sharpies. A circular prayer.

A few of the words were illustrated. A drawing of the Earth, a loaf of bread, the word “FOREVER” flowing around a mobius strip.

Drawing this prayer was meaningful. It drew me. I became a little more by spending this time with this prayer. Awesome prayer. Said with intent, not habit, it is powerful. It covers everything... our fallen nature, our promised afterlife, how we treat others, the bounties the Lord showers on us. Spending hours and hours drawing this, praying this, provides its own circular rhythm in my heart.

So as the year came around I was eager to see it painted over so I could begin again... another cycle, another circle.

I have started. I’m excited. So far I have put about 15 hours into it. Fifteen hours of saying The Lord’s Prayer, thinking through its meaning, interpreting it with images, gestures of color, rhythms of words and thoughts.

I have completed the background:

I have made some changes to its design.

It is still circular but there are many more details. It is set against a backdrop of stars... the closest we come to seeing eternity in this life. God the Father is represented by a golden triangle at the top, the center, the triune God. A beam of bluish light traverses the painting to shine upon Earth at the bottom. To the right, the sun, its rays illuminating bluish clouds, representing morning, beginnings. To the left is the moon, surrounded by reddish clouds partly concealing a green snake slithering through (“...but deliver us from evil...”) which turns at the last moment away from the central cross. Though this symmetry gives a stark balance to the image, it is broken up by smaller details.

This prayer, memorized, and repeated by countless believers through twenty centuries, is once again repeated. A prayer I know very well, taught to me by my mother before I ever set foot in a school, it is fresh today.

This is so exciting!

While I paint I keep it fresh (in my heart and in the painting). I am doing preparatory sketches. Yet I am leaving plenty of room for spontaneous details.

If you will indulge me, I’d like to share some of my thinking. Here is the sketch as of today:

Do you see how the scroll containing the word “AMEN” seems awkward on its right side? I had wanted to have the folds taper in on the left side so it would form a sort of visual arrow toward the cross. Like this:

But the scroll just doesn’t feel right. So, with a couple of minutes on the computer I made this alteration:

By moving in the other side of the scroll the focus is moved back along the outer circle and it tends to better balance the words surrounding “Our Father.” Here “heart” speaks truer than mind, creativity wins over logic.

So where is the spontaneity? It will be in the execution. I am free to push colors and try new techniques. I can write words of praise in areas which need darkening, shading, blending.

I’ve a lot more to share about this work in progress, and I will keep all of you apprised.

Here are a few thoughts about the first part of this prayer:

Our Father...

Yahweh. Eloi. The great I AM. The CREATOR!
The source of all things, the triune God, my Master, my Lord.

Who art in Heaven...

He who dwells above all, figuratively, spiritually, literally, the highest of all, holiest of all...

Hallowed be Thy Name...

May your name be always set apart. (Please forgive those who take it in vain, who use it casually.) I understand why your people have been so reluctant to even write it down. May I always, always use it with reverence!

Thy Kingdom come...

May all You desire for us, of us happen in this place... may we truly set up Your kingdom, first in our hearts, and then our homes, and then our communities, and finally may it happen over all the Earth some day soon...

Thy will be done...

May it truly happen, soon, and may my hands be a part in the making of Your will for us happen here on Earth, in this place, this town, this community...

On Earth...

On this fallen world, this place filled with people who have turned their backs on You...

As it is in Heaven...

As It is in the perfection of Your dwelling place oh Lord.... Oh Lord... I would gladly spend a single day there, with You, than a thousand here. Truly... Oh Lord All Mighty! Some day I will see such glory. I will hold my child again, the son who bore my name, who went home ahead of me... I will see Your glory... I will hear Your Son’s voice, see the wounds He bears for me... I will learn to worship in a congregation which worries little about time, about weariness


I wander...



There are things on my heart. Things which weigh me down.

There are things on my mind. Things which worry me.

I am so glad to be able to pray. What a privilege to share all my thoughts, my concerns, my joys and worship with the one who encloses all of the universe ...ominpotent... omniscient... all within His reality. I am connected to everrything... to realities beyoind the ones my senses can determine. My prayers cut through it all... the messes within my life, the fears and frailities of being mortal, and cut through to a reality that is bigger than my mind can imagine, my heart can contain. I am in contact with the source of all good things. The One who binds it all together, including me, so I don’t fly apart, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

Our Father, Who art in Heaven... Hallowed be Thy name...


Felisol said...

Dear Curious Servant,
I very much admire your artistic work and the immence depth of philosophy, self analiyzing and true belief lying behind, or sooner plaited within your paintings. Personally I have been struggeling with the Lord's Prayer for quite some time now. To pray thy will be done.. and so entreat it to be undone.
Like my father who had a brain haemorrage three yaers ago. Now he's struggling and striving every minute of the day not to survive, but to endure living. Deprived of all that once was him.
He is my hero more than ever before, ( and I am a daddy's girl, always was, always will be).
He's the one who taught me to pray and he's still praying, only it's getting harder and tougher day by day.
And so "Thy will be done?"
What else is there? I know of nothing better, I am familiar with the fact that His ways are higher than mine. Nevertheless I think I've had enough of His mysterious ways. I beg that His will must be to comfort and send His Holy Spirit to the ones I love.

Susie Hovendick Chan said...

nice artwork.

Fred said...

The prayer room is fabulous. In all the churches I've been a part of, I've never seen that.

Ame said...

"I think this reality is embedded within the other."

I've never thought of it in this visual before ... I really like this visual thought.

This is an amazing post ... so much written here ... "My prayers cut through it all ..." Yes, our prayers cut through everything.

It will always be a mystery how God inhabits the praise of His people ... how He comes into our prayers ... how He changes us through prayer - chemically ... physiologically ... physically ... in every way we are changed through experiencing God in such deep and intimate ways ...

Felisol said...

Dear Courious Servant,
thoughts keep coming and going while I'm making huge breads by hand on a holy Sunday.
I'm thrilled about your paintings, especially "The Lord's Prayer." I can see it with my inner eye, while poundering on the heavy dough.
Then the idea came. I'm not not a frequent visitor to our church. I go whenever my daughter's choir are performing though.
But I fully acknowledge the necessities of both churches and active, living congregations.
My need at the moment is to create a room of prayer and contemplation in our home.
We fill it with so mucch evil, especiallly from the television, but also books, music, our selfmade quarrels, greed, egoism.
I do that.
Then I thought that I could gather all the small items I have gathered from vistiting churches and monastries all over Europe in the "sanctuary."
One thing I would like to add though, a small canvas with your Lord's prayer on it. May be even blessed by your pastor.
Would that be something you could make and sell to raise a new church??
I am sure there must be more people than me who need something sacred in their homes.
Or am I far out after my most unholy bread making?
Please delete this post if I am wrong. It's no use in stirring things up or making anybody any harm. As you will see, I'm having doubts and troubles with sending this post. That may mean it's all wrong, or on the contrary, that it might work.
I'll make our retreat room anyway.
God bless.

curious servant said...

Actually I have been thinking asbout that very thing!

I thought that I might get this prayer duplicated on some nice archival paper and print off in a limited number. I could sell them and use the money for the rebuilding of our church.

In the next few weeks I plan on really tackling this job. I will keep all of you updated.