A Perspective on Prayer and Life

I couldn't help
but share this quote
for today,
even if we may not be
completely familiar with William Blake's poetry
 or Karl Barth's thoughts
(one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century).

This excerpt from Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941)
sheds light, and perhaps a new perspective to some,
on what 'prayer' is.

Do take the time to read the brief quote,
even if prayer isn't your cup of tea;
a place somewhere in your soul may thank you.
(Mine always does.)


P.S.  She was the first woman to give a series of lectures
on theology at Oxford.



The old writers call these two activities Mortification and Prayer.  These are formidable words, and modern man tends to recoil from them.  Yet they only mean, when translated into our own language, that the spiritual life involves both dealing with ourselves, and attending to God.  Or, to put it the other way round and in more general terms, first turning to Reality, and then getting our tangled, half-real psychic lives—so tightly coiled about ourselves and our own interests, including our spiritual interests—into harmony with the great movement of Reality.  Mortification means killing the very roots of self-love; pride and possessiveness, anger and violence, ambition and greed in all their disguises, however respectable those disguises may be, whatever uniforms they wear.  In fact, it really means the entire transformation of our personal, professional and political life into something more consistent with our real situation as small dependent, fugitive creatures; all sharing the same limitations and inheriting the same half-animal past.  That may not sound very impressive or unusual; but it is the foundation of all genuine spiritual life, and sets a standard which is not peculiar to orthodox Christianity.  Those who are familiar with Blake's poetry will recognise that it is all to be found there.  Indeed, wherever we find people whose spiritual life is robust and creative, we find that in one way or another this transformation has been effected and this price has been paid.

Prayer means turning to Reality, taking our part, however humble, tentative and half-understood, in the continual conversation, the communion, of our spirits with the Eternal Spirit; the acknowledgment of our entire dependence, which is yet the partly free dependence of the child.  For Prayer is really our whole life toward God:  our longing for him, our 'incurable God-sickness,’ as Barth calls it, our whole drive towards him.  It is the humble correspondence of the human spirit with the Sum of all Perfection, the Fountain of Life.  No narrower definition than this is truly satisfactory, or covers all the ground.

-- From The Spiritual Life by Evelyn Underhill