Nancy Sterling: Unceasing Prayer
My husband and I joined Chapelwood in 1995 after visiting for about a year. A few years later I was invited to join the staff by Jim Jackson and Marilyn Brown.
When Jerry Webber came on staff to develop the Center for Christian Spirituality, he needed assistance and I was available. I no longer work for the church but am still active here, particularly in the area of prayer.I facilitate two sessions of centering prayer at Chapelwood at the Anchor House.
We all are called to be temples of the Holy Spirit. To attain that, there are certain practices and disciplines. Some of them are common to every Christian tradition: prayer, silence, stillness, fasting, and different ways of expressing your relationship to God in a very personal way.
The different spiritual disciplines actually bring you to a place of a deeper relationship with God. One of the concepts that’s so meaningful to me is realizing that everything I do in life is prayer. If you begin to realize and experience God in every moment within you and in everything around you, you do become a different kind of Christian, a different kind of person. For me, I found that it’s become attitude of inclusivity, an attitude of awareness.
A sixteenth century book called The Cloud of Unknowing, written by an unknown English author, introduced what it means to go into your closet to pray, to shut the door, to go into your inner temple, to be the temple of the Holy Spirit, and to be present to the presence of God, with no agenda and no inquiry, recognizing you are fully loved and fully accepted just as you are.
Centering prayer, which is a prayer of quiet, is foundational to me. I made a commitment a few months ago to be faithful to practicing that twice a day. So twice a day I’ll sit in twenty minutes of silence after sitting with scripture and prayer. It has had a profound effect on my life. The main benefit of the centering prayer period is that you are more open and aware and awakened to the reality of God around you, so that all the ordinary things of everyday become incredibly sacred. And you practice this ability to observe what’s going on within you, and so when things go to trigger you, you are aware of how you are reacting and responding.
Probably the biggest takeaway from prayer for me is that as I am, I’m loved. And when we live into that, our lives are transformed, and the world is transformed.
My prayer for Chapelwood is for people to recognize that prayer is not that difficult. I remember struggling in the beginning. I realized the problem was a lot of me wanting to control everything. Prayer is so much simpler than that. It’s about being aware of the presence of God in every moment, in every part of your life. There’s always grace there, and if I could just encourage people to relax and realize that they’re probably already praying just by breathing. The ancient teachers said that the unsayable, unwritable name of God, Yahweh, is actually an intake of breath, so just by breathing we’re speaking the name of God. That’s prayer.
I would just encourage anyone who is on the Christian journey, on a spiritual journey, to relax and know that prayer can be so much easier.