LOGO angelican
May 2012
Vol 4 Issue 9

Practicing Month to Month
A Newsletter of the Spiritual Enrichment Committee
Welcome to our Spiritual Practices E-Newsletter  

Dear friends,



Below is the Spiritual Practice newsletter for May written by Don McLeod about the 'Myth of Prayer.' This is based on a sermon he gave back in the fall which many of you enjoyed.


I'd also like to remind you about a special meeting of parishioners which has been called for this Sunday, May 6 after the service.  At a February 21, 2010 special meeting about the renovations the following motion was passed: "The parish of St. Laurence directs the corporation and vestry to convene a special meeting of the parish to approve the finalized renovation and financing plans."  We are now in a position to present the finalized renovation and financing plans before we go to tender later this month.  Please join us on Sunday so that we can share all the hard work the Project Committee has been up to and outline the next steps. 






The Myth of Prayer by Don McLeod


This past year I have been exploring the idea that the Church needs to recover the art of renewing its myths in order to continue to remain vital and alive. We have explored themes such as myth & the Calgary Stampede; myth of the end of the world, the myth of good and evil. Last November I offered a homily on the myth of prayer and Anna has asked me to provide a synopsis of that reflection for this newsletter.


Myth takes the form of story, symbol, and image to express truth or provide meaning for the human experience. It helps us stand in a meaningful relationship with Mystery and to build a bridge between the unknown and the knower. For people of faith, our understanding of God and the spiritual life is based on creating and recreating myths that point to these deeper truths and experiences of the sacred that go beyond our language or intellectual understanding.


A myth gets old and images and symbols lose their power when they no longer reveal deeper truths or point to Mystery in ways that bring life. This happens when our myths begin to be told as interesting yet faded stories of a distant past...or, at the opposite end, when it is insisted that we accept our myths, symbols, and images as literal fact even when this defies common sense or current knowledge. When this happens our myths becomes like concrete, solidified and entrenched.


This is why it is important for us to understand the importance of myth and how they serve us both individually and as a human community. Diana Butler Bass spoke in her writings about the necessity for the Church to re-traditionalize, that is to renew and reclaim ancient traditions in ways that will be meaningful for contemporary life. I believe an important part of this work is to renew our stories, images, and symbols, our myths, in ways that deepen our experience of Mystery and the Divine and help us to make sense of our lives today. We could call this work to "re-mythologize".


One of the areas where this work is important is in our understanding and practice of prayer. One of the most powerful myths created around prayer has traditionally led us to believe that our prayers, if offered fervently and faithfully enough, will change our circumstances or our situation (illness, work, relationships, or global issues like war and peace).


Yet, if one steps back and thinks through what this really means one begins to understand why more and more of us question this reigning myth of prayer.


As theologian John Westerhoff wrote, "My prayers don't change God, they change me." So if we move away from the idea that we don't pray to God so that God will change things, what is prayer and why do it?


Richard Rohr has suggested one possible reason when he writes, "something deep inside of us that calls us to commune with the Source of Life and this call or compelling force does not go away."


I would argue it is for exactly this reason that we pray about our own circumstances and struggles, our own uncertainties and the many concerns we have for others and our world. We bring them forward out of a genuine desire to be in communion with these people and/or questions and with the restless hope that transformation will come.


How many times have we heard the invitation to "pray for me" or "pray for these others" or "pray that we don't crash"?


My practice of prayer when I receive these invitations is simply to pause and remember. To be silently in the moment with the person or situation. In these times I'm really becoming present to the other (no need for fancy words or words at all). To "remember in prayer" literally can mean to "re-member", to reconnect to our unity, in suffering, in expectation and anticipation, in our deep desire to see a new world of justice and peace emerge.


Paul wrote to the Ephesians (5: 14) saying, "Everything exposed to the light itself becomes light." Rather than being a technique for getting things we think we want or need or a pious exercise that somehow makes God happy or a religious requirement that will provide the golden ticket and entry into heaven...prayer is much more like practicing heaven now. Reinventing the myth of prayer frees us up from our anxiety around doing "it" the right way, formulating the right beliefs, discovering the correct posture or articulating the perfect words.


We are changing our view of prayer (renewing the myth) because we are changing the way we see and experience God. The Gospels record more than once that Jesus prayed all night, as if he was saturating himself in a different reality. It is this different reality that our prayer intends to point us to, or invite us into.


This different reality is God beyond all our names and all our understanding. It is why the Jewish people were on to something when they felt that the actual name of God should not be uttered. There was wisdom in this insight. It reminds people that God is beyond all names...YHVH....what is holy is mysterious and unavailable to the mind. However, we have now learned that this practice goes even deeper. Originally the word was not spoken...but breathed!


Many scholars and theologians are convinced that the correct pronunciation of YHVH is an attempt to replicate and imitate the very sound of inhalation and exhalation. So the one thing we do every moment of our lives is speak the name of God. It is the first and last word as we enter and leave this world.


Could this image serve as a metaphor for a rich and life giving way of prayer? Prayer as:

  • the art of soul making, a continual and unceasing dialogue with the Holy One
  • the persistent seeking of a life of communion with the Divine, a deeper life, saturated by a new and different reality
  • the breathing in and a breathing out of the very Source of Life and an unceasing remembrance of all those long for goodness and mercy


Enough of all these words about prayer, let me leave you with a metaphor in the form of a poem that might point to what Paul meant by his invitation to pray unceasingly. This is a simple poem written by Billy Collins, former U.S. poet laureate who was in town recently and recited this poem to a delighted audience at the University of Calgary.   Let it be a reminder to us that prayer is truly as simple and as accessible as breathing. For this "myth of prayer", all you need do is imagine a "gaggle" or "squeal" of teenage girls and let the poem do this rest.


Oh My God - by Billy Collins


Not only in church

and nightly by their bedsides

do your girls pray these days.

Wherever they go,

prayer is woven into their talk

like a bright thread of awe

Even at the pedestrian mall

outbursts of praise spring unbidden

from their glossy lips.



This month at St. Laurence



Thursday, May 3 - 9:30 am Contemplative Prayer with Geri Urch


Sunday, May 6 - 10 am service followed by Special Parish Meeting about Renovation 


Sunday, May 13 - Ascension Sunday 10 am Service.  No 'Conversations' after the service because of Mother's Day.


Thursday, May 17 - 9:30 am

Contemplative Prayer with Geri Urch


Sunday, May 20- 10 am Service.  No "Conversations" after the service because of Victoria Day Long weekend.


Sunday, May 27 - Pentecost Sunday 10 am Service. Carolyn Herold to preach about her recent time in Jerusalem.  "Conversations' after the service also with Carolyn.  


Monday, May 28 -7:15 pm Parish Council Meeting