Monday, August 29, 2011
Ann and Barry Ulanov have written a great deal on the life of prayer. In Primary Speech: A Psychology of Prayer, they explore the depths of prayer and the various aspects of prayer as means for drawing near to God. Utilizing the insights of psychology, they help us to understand how prayer enables speech to occur and how it extends us beyond our known self into the unknown God (p. 9); there is, as they write, "an otherness to prayer": that is, "in the process of confessing who we are we find ourselves addressed by the otherness within ourselves and the otherness within our world. We find ourselves met by others who do not see things the way we do, but insist on other points of view. For example, in prayer we cannot escape the memory of anyone's criticism of us. We must look at it from all sides and angles and cannot hide in a defensive reaction by turning it back on our accuser, and say it is his or her problem, not ours" (p. 9).
"In prayer we cannot avoid a dream or a fantasy image that insists on our attention. We must inspect it and hear what it says about us. In prayer we discover odd coincidences and new insights that we know did not originate in ourselves. We cannot create or produce them at will. Being itself speaks to us in these events, and we listen. If we go on listening, we feel God pulling us, drawing us into a life of abundance...we become swept into the flowing of this other life through the small space of our self....the speech of prayer tells us of the new life for psyche and soul that comes when we open the door to the one who stands there knocking" (p. 9).
I look forward to reading two other books by the Ulanovs: The Healing Imagination and Religion and the Unconscious. There is great wisdom in what they write about prayer.