Friday, June 4, 2021 (Day 4)

Katie Snipes Lancaster

Psalm 4 (from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
When I call out, answer me, my righteous God.
In the straits, You set me free.
Have mercy upon me and hear my prayer…
You put joy in my heart…
In peace, all whole, let me lie down and sleep.
For You, Lord, alone, do set me down safely.

An Opening Word
Psalm 4 pleads with God, “answer me.” It is one of the great frustrations of our faith, as well as one of the deep longings. I have a brother who is classically difficult to connect with: “text me back if you get this” is sometimes met with days of silence before I get a response. (Admittedly, if you ask a good question, like “how should I cook these beets?”—he’s a chef—he might reply in minutes). Sometimes our plea to God feels like this too. “Give me a sign that you heard my prayer,” is met with wordless silence. But are we being ghosted by God? Or is silence simply a way toward the divine?

Carl McColeman says, “Mysticism is deeply contemplative: it invites us into that place of wordless adoration where prayer unfolds in communion and union.” I heard an interview this week with a woman who says that when she has a major decision to make, she finds a place outdoors and sits in silence, awaiting the nudge from God that helps her trust that she is moving in the right divinely-blessed direction. Answers come in different ways: sometimes with a sense of peace, sometimes with a fortuitous connection with a person struggling with the same thing she is struggling with, sometimes with a deep wordless trust that a “yes” or a “no” is the right decision. It helps me to know that others find both outdoors and silence to be genuine ways of connecting with God at the crossroads of life.

Not unrelated are the words below from Evagrius of Pontus who defines prayer in ways that seem deep and wide. Evagrius was considered a “heretic” for a long while (because of his affiliation with Origen of Alexandria), and so we only have his short Zen-koan-like teachings because monks and nuns living in the deserts of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine had their calligraphers quietly (and illegally) copy and recopy his writings on contemplative prayer and interior silence.

Bonus fun fact: If you’ve ever heard of the seven deadly sins, know that you’ve been influenced by Evagrius, whose writings included the eight logismoi (or eight deadly thoughts) that inspired Pope Gregory the Great’s list of seven deadly sins.

Prayer from the Mystics: Evagrius of Pontus (345–399)
Prayer is the offshoot of gentleness
and freedom from anger.
Prayer is the issue of joy
and thanksgiving.
Prayer is a defense against sadness
and discouragement.

May we meet God in this way.
Amen.