Read Matthew 25:14-30.
What is a river?
Is it a channel through which water can flow?
No. We call that a riverbed or gulley or wadi or some such.
Is it then the water that flows through the riverbed?
No. That same water eventually flows into the sea. We don’t speak of the sea as containing many rivers.
What then is the river? It requires the riverbed, it requires the water, but itself is the flow.
To the extent that the riverbed offers up impediments to the flow, rocks and shallows and twists and oxbows, to that extent it is less a river and more a stream. In fact, given enough impediment and a small enough flow, it becomes a collection of stagnant pools. Or even dry ground.
God’s grace must flow through you unimpeded. The smoother the channel, the better the flow. Your fears and desires and aversions block the flow, and the water will back up and divert to the unblocked river over yonder—the one with ten talents.
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When I am sick, should I pray for my own healing? That’s a question that exercised me for years. On the one hand, God knows all things and does all things well. Surely he knows whether it is better for me to be sick. On the other hand, we are told to pray. We are told that the reason we don’t have is that we don’t ask. Then again, on the third hand, we ask and we don’t receive what we think we wanted.
I think we sometimes have prayer backwards. We try to twist God’s arm into giving us gifts, into sending water our way. But the true situation is the opposite. God is of such a nature that he can’t help but give as many costly gifts as he possibly can, up to and including himself. The limiting factor is what we are able to receive.
Prayer does indeed coerce God into giving us gifts, but only to the extent that the prayer changes us.
In a river the channel doesn’t redirect the water. Not really. The water is always going to end up in the sea. It is the flowing water that carves and smooths the channel. In fact, a river can literally move mountains.
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In writing about Meister Eckhart’s view on prayer, John Orme Mills, OP says this:
If prayer is defined as being no more than asking God for things, no more than petition, then obviously the wholly detached person—in other words, the person who [desires what God desires]—would not be able to pray. If, on the other hand, prayer is understood as union with God, then detachment has its own form of prayer. The soul that is one with God is a soul that (to use Eckhart’s own turn of phrase) ‘lives without a “why”’. It is not living for some purpose or other—what we, in our world, assume all too often living seriously is all about. The soul that is one with God lives without a ‘why’ in the sheer delight of its existence.
What, then, is important for him is not so much what we do or where we do it as what spirit we do it in. As he said to the young Dominican students in Erfurt […]:
“To the extent that you depart from all things, thus far, and no more, God enters into you with all that is His. People should therefore not worry so much about what they do but rather about what they are. If they and their ways are good, then their deeds are radiant. If you are righteous, then what you do will also be righteous."