Catherine Askew

We have come to seek you, O God, just as we are we come.
We have come to be sought by you, just as we are we come.
A member of our Community wrote this chant, and I find it so helpful because just the coming to prayer can be a challenge.
Even before I start, I think, 
“What am I doing this for?”
The chant reminds me: 
“To seek and be sought”
And Who am I?
Yes, but what version of myself?  Which aspects?  What mood?  Intention?
“Just whatever I’ve got today, wherever I find myself.”
And not only “me” but “we” because this is the invitation for all of us… just as we are, we come.
I remember hearing early on in my spiritual seeking that the number one rule of prayer is: “Pray as you can, not as you can’t.”  At the time I thought this was trite and self-evident.  Twenty-five years on, I’ve come back to this bit of wisdom time and time again.  I add to it: “Come as you are, not as you aren’t!”  So, I don’t try (or I try not to try) to pray as anyone other than myself.  
I “show up”, just as I am, for a time of prayer.  Thankfully this requires very little kit, but being in a place that feels safe and where my soul feels a bit alive helps me.  Then I breathe, wait, and begin as I’m ready.
The bedrock of my prayer life is Centering Prayer, a practice of Christian contemplation. In this way of prayer, I present myself—in body and soul—as an offering to God and make myself available to God’s work within.   
The method is simple enough.  I sit in silence, gently repeating a word or phrase that reflects the nature and being of God, as I understand God.  When distractions come, I notice them, sift them, and return to the word or phrase.
In the doing of it, here’s is what I’ve noticed:
  • Things that don’t belong to me fall away.
  • My center of concern and energy moves from reaching out to resting quietly within.
  • Good things that have becomes twisted or distorted start to unwind to their natural state.
  • Some unnecessary things just get burnt up or dissolved or blown away.
  • Really crucial things that I’ve swept under the carpet (usually because I feel pain around them) come back unto the light to be examined with soft eyes.
  • Interior space opens for me to be better able to give and receive love.
  • I feel more real, more truly myself 
Simultaneously, this work seems to be happening around my image of God.  Things that don’t belong to God fall away.  Distorted things untwist. Crucial things come to the surface.   And somehow through it all, I feel I am greeted with a steady gaze of love.
The book of Hebrews speaks of everything being shaken and the kingdom of God being all the unshakable things that remain. 
Prayer seems to leave me with more of this ‘unshakable’ Reality I seek.
Catherine Askew grew up in Northeast Tennessee but now makes her home in the Northeast of England where she is Chaplain-in-Residence at Nether Springs, the Mother House of the Northumbria Community.  She is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and an Anglican priest.