So you remember that I have been thinking about what it mans to live before the face of God. Now one of the ways that this happens is during prayer times at morning ad evening. Sometimes during prayer I am moved to tears (like this morning). I was recalling before God a situation that is a particular burden at the moment. Thinking about all hose involved, and the difficulty of not knowing exactly what to do, I was crying, and saying, “God, this is serious. I hope that what we have decided to do will work!!!” One of my definitions of prayer is ‘to come into contact with my deepest self in the company of God.’ So these tears were certainly a way of coming into contact with a significant part of my self, and so I think that this prayer was an authentic prayer for me.
This is especially so when I think about praying in the light of the book ‘The Drama of the Gifted Child’. This book describes how we are taught to lose contact with our true selves, because we need to be fed, and we need to please others in order to get fed. So we gradually forget how to come into contact with our deepest self, or any ‘true’ self at all.
I remember as a young child saying very adult sounding prayers that impressed everyone else, but which were too precocious for a four year old!So the years of spiritual direction that I had taught me to cry again, and to come into contact with my true self.
But I remember some times when tears have not been as welcome. One friend of mine says that when she is in meetings where important decisions and strategy is discussed, she does not want to cry, because at those times it is important to stay focussed, and not to distract from the debate or conversation be injecting tearful emotion into the debate. It is true that this person was ‘in touch’ with something, but is it true that all forms of being ‘in touch’ need to be expressed in tears? She thought not.
There was also a time when our prime minister was speaking about drugs policy. His own daughter had been addicted to heroine, and so his speech went, ‘You don’t cease to be a father [when making these policy decisions]. He began to cry.
Now the media thought that this was a stunt. That is, that he was using his ability to cry as a tool to get his own way politically. This happens sometimes I guess, but I am prepared to own that my and other people’s tears are signs of being genuinely ‘in touch’, and that this is a sign of the authenticity of the thoughts that go with the tears.
It is also true that after the tears it is important to have a look at the ideas that accompany them, and to put some plans into action as a result. Tears by themselves are like other emotional states. They accompany thoughts, and give added power to our thinking. But it is what happens after that is equally important.
Sometimes I have been told that it is the very act of praying about a thing, which validates the decision that has been announced.
I have been wanting something from a particular person for a long time. They have refused my request. One of the things that they said to me, as a justification for their refusal, was ‘I have prayed about this matter.’
My response is “Well so have I, and I have come to a different conclusion to you. Just because you have prayed about a thing, does not necessarily make your decision right.”
Saying “I have prayed about this’ is a rhetorical move which is designed to establish the superior authority of the speaker, over the one who is spoken to. It is designed to close down a disagreement by saying, “Well because I have prayed about this, that should be the end of the matter because I have access to a better source of advice about our disagreement than you do: God! What is more, I can rely on the genuineness and rightness of my decision because I have prayed about it”
I think that just as tears tell me something about the authenticity of my ‘in-touch-ness’ but need then to be set aside as a discussion about what to do happens, so prayer about a matter is an indication of the seriousness with which a person takes something, but it does not automatically make them right.
This is the same as people saying, “You should accept my point of view because I have made a big study of this matter.” Just having made a study of a matter gets me the right to a respectful hearing, but it may not make me right. If I have made a study of a matter, then I can make the case! But I cannot rely on the silencing of my opponents simply on the basis of saving ‘made a study of a thing’.
So having learned to be inauthentic in prayer, I am glad to be able to be authentic again, via my prayerful tears. I am happy to ‘flow’ in this way in the company of God.
But there is a moral dimension to being ‘authentic’. Praying or study alone are not guarantees of being right, and I do not think that either should be used as a way of justifying my actions, in the face of another’s claim. I should be able to ‘make my case’, no matter how I have arrived at it.