PRAYER: It Begins With Faith by M. Basil Pennington

It Begins With Faith by M. Basil Pennington

From An Invitation to Centering Prayer

Through this little book we have been listening to the Lord.  Jesus has told us that he and the Father dwell with us, that they want to refresh us, that all things are ours and we are God’s.  We can believe all that, we know it is all true, because God has given us the gift we call faith.

Faith is the ability the Lord gives us to know something is true because God has said it.  It is a precious gift because it lets us in on a whole lot – really, on the whole story: “I have made known to you all that my Father has made known to me.”

Like our muscles or our minds, faith is a gift that grows by use.  Faith comes from hearing and it grows by hearing.  Each day we want to grow in faith.  “The just person (and the happy one) lives by faith.”  Each day we want to hear the Word of God and receive it.

Here is a very simple traditional way of doing this:

Sacred Reading

It is well to keep the sacred scriptures enthroned in our home in a place of honor as a real presence of the Word in our midst.

  1. Take the sacred text with reverence and call upon the Holy Spirit.
  2. For five minutes (or longer, if you are so drawn) listen to the Lord speaking to you through the text, and respond.
  3. At the end of the time, choose a word or phrase (perhaps one will have been “given” to you) different from your Centering Prayer word to take with you, and thank the Lord for being with you and speaking to you.

The place we can most easily hear the Lord is in the scriptures.

The Bible should be among our most precious possessions.  It should never be simply left lying about or shelved among the other books.  Rather it should be enthroned in our homes and offices as a real presence of the Lord in our midst.

Each day we want to take some time to listen to the Lord speaking to us in this inspired word.

We take up our Bible with great reverence, aware of God’s presence.  We kiss the Bible and ask the Holy Spirit who inspired the writer and who lives in us to make the word come alive now in us.

Then we listen for our allotted time.  If the Lord speaks to us in the first word, we respond.  If not, we just move gently on, listening, ready to respond.  If the Lord speaks powerfully to us, we simply abide in this word and presence.

At the end of our time, we thank the Lord (isn’t it wonderful we can have God speak to us whenever we want!) and we take away from our encounter a thought or word to carry with us through the day.

Some days the Lord speaks a word to us, gives it to us.  We don’t have to take one.  God’s word comes alive and in its liveliness enlivens us.

Other days, the Lord seems absent.  We read one word after the other and nothing speaks to us.  It is then, at the end of our reading/listening, that we choose a word to carry with us.  Oftentimes I have found that this proves to be just the word someone else needs from me as the day moves on.  Other times I find that the chosen word suddenly comes alive – a real encounter with the risen Lord – when I least expect it.

At the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples (and told all of us): I no longer call you servants, but friends, because I make known to you all that the Father has made known to me – all the secrets of my heart.

We have been made for a deep intimate friendship with the Lord.  Our hearts long for it.  As a great sinner who became a great saint once cried: “Our hearts are made for you, O Lord, and they will not rest until they rest in you!”

We are not content with just listening to the Lord’s words, no matter how wonderful they are.  We want a deeper, more experiential union with God.  It is like any true friendship: as it grows it needs to go beyond words to doing things together and for each other.  The image God has frequently used is that of the marital embrace, that total being to each other.  We need those times of Centering Prayer when we listen not just with our ears, our eyes, our minds but more with our hearts, with our whole being.

Faith is the gateway to intimacy.  And faith grows by hearing.

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