Jesus sends me off to pray
in my boat of words.
I begin to row.
Even though I know
he’s gone off to the hills,
I keep looking for him
beside me, hands touching,
asleep in the stern, head on a pillow.
A sprinkling of thoughts
are soon droplets of desire,
driven by restless winds
Why isn’t he here?
I row my thoughts,
press them harder,
beg my prayers to carry me across the divide.
But the shore remains distant.
Then he appears
walking on the water.
I step out with nothing solid under my feet,
praying without words or strategies,
trusting only his gaze.
waves of doubt slap my feet,
soak my pants,
pull me down
into the cold, dark sea.
You’re going to drown, says the wind.
Water swallows my ankles, my knees, my thighs.
He grasps my hand.
My heart leaps open,
we’re walking on water.
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.“You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” –Matthew 14:22-33 (NIV)
∗ ∗ ∗
I first began praying without words when I ran out of them and found myself drawn to just rest in God’s presence. A few years later, in what is now called Living From The Heart, I was introduced to the practise of Centering Prayer with a video of Father Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk and founder of Contemplative Outreach. Keating’s life is vibrant example of the freedom and joy that is the fruit of prayer. His enthusiasm is contagious.