Ryan Kemp-Pappan is Associate Pastor for Spiritual Formation at Douglass Boulevard Christian Church in Louisville, KY. He’s currently pursuing a Masters of Arts in Spirituality at Bellarmine University. Ryan is an artist whose canvas is the soul of the people of God. He is co-founder of [D]mergent, the upcoming co-host (summer 2010) of HCX [A podcast for the outcast & apostate], blogs at thefetteredheart.com, and you may find him on Twitter @rk_p.
Prayer for me has been a difficult venture. Every now & again I get all Jesus ninja on my prayer life. I set out to spend hours in prayer or seek to pray for all of the “S’s” in the phone book. I struggle with ways to connect with “God.”
I struggle with prayer not due to lack of praying. I struggle with what actually happens when I pray. I get deep into thought & pray. I hold a heavy heart for Haiti or can’t shake the hurt I’ve witnessed in the faces of teenage mothers walking to the clinic past a barrage of screaming adults accusing them of malicious intent. I pray and lose myself in my own woes. I lose myself in my thoughts of lunch, dinner, and what movies I want to watch. It seems I have a physical aversion to prayer.
God is drowned out by the world to which I live & am seeking refuge from. I desperately want to escape this solitary existence in the crowd. I need to find a way to prayerfully connect to “God.” This past MLK holiday, I was invited to a retreat at Bellarmine University. We were to spend the day with Br. Paul Quenon in monastic prayer, hear poetry read, & a lecture.
I stood in the chapel praying the hours [for my first time] surrounded by strangers. Our only bond seeming a conviction of the need to satisfy the hunger that growls at the very core of our soul. We listen to our voices call out the psalm of the hour & offer our beloved Creator these frail, finite voices that dare utter a name that seeks to be a holder of majesty beyond belief.
I soak in the words of this beatnik monk leading us in the Hours like I soak in the controlled chaos of Charles Mingus. When giving instruction to us prior to prayers Br. Paul says, “If you meditate seeking results you’ll be disappointed. Meditation draws you nearer to God & God’s love.” I respond with silence, convicted that I want results more than I wanted nearer to God. Well, I wanted the nearer if that was the result.
I hear Br. Paul say, “God is not a thing…God is more like no-thing.” I respond with a longing breath, knowing that I am far from releasing my hold on anything, let alone my grasp of that which I call God. I gather myself as the psalms are sort of chanted back & forth, to the right & left. A mantra appears, “When it comes to self-serving, we awaken to the reality that there is ultimately no self to serve.”
I chant the psalm but my heart prays an emptying, to be filled by the formless void that is “God” & contains all that ever was & ever shall be. The Hours have filtered the Jesus ninja within & attached me physically to this world I desperately sought to escape.
Photo: Ryan Kemp-Pappan