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March 18, 2005
Could you just repeat what you said a few minutes ago? someone asked. You said that feelings aren't the barometer of spiritual experience, and then I think you said that the spiritual life doen't need a barometer.

No, it doesn't. Nothing in the spiritual life needs to be measured. You don't need to worry about whether your'e praying as well as somebody else is, even somebody whose spiritual life you admire. We are not called to grow into someone else's spirtual clothing: only into our own.

Measuring and evaluating your prayer is too much like what happens in school to be spiritually healthy. In school, you get a grade. You try to get a better grade. You hope you get a better grade than your seatmate, because you are competing with him. Your focus is on yourself, and it is a competitive focus.

But in prayer, the focus needs to be wider: it is on you, but it is also on those you love, on the world, on the mysetery of God. I can't think of a single way to measure that, or a single good reason for doing so.

And you don't need to fuss yourself about whether you are as devout as you used to be -- human beings are changeable cratures, and the spiritual life is a human enterprise: it has eras, and it will change from era to era. Something that has fed you for years may cease to do so, and that need not mean you're wandering away from God. It probably just means you're changing eras. Don't be surprised or alarmed; it will probably be back. JUst do something else for a while -- evening prayerinstead of morning, journalling instead of either, centering prayer upon awakening. Something new to you. It may be that the new practice will be even better than the old. It may have been time to let the old one go.

Just ask God for the gift of prayer that God wants you to have. Do this especially is you're a smart liberal person who feels a little embarrassed anthropomorphizing God and asking him for things. Don't be embarrassed: you don't create God in yor own image by imagining God; you're just using the tools that human beings have for coming closer to God. You are speaking the language of prayer, of image, of poetry, not the language of journalistic fact. You are right to assert that God is beyond image, beyond body, beyond all that is here. But we're here. The threshold of prayer is low enough so that all of us can take the first step.

So ask, and don't criticize yourself. Because if we knew how much God loves us, we would be very different people. And the world would be a very different place.
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