Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Prayer of Adoration

Something wonderful and holy happened to me while I was in Hawaii for the annual synod assembly gathering that our synod, Pacifica, holds each year to allow pastors and other rostered leaders of the church to some together for conversation, collegiality, fellowship, and the business of the Lutheran church, which includes decision-making and resolutions, and many other church-wide concerns. Yes, the gathering of church leaders and delegates from the two states that comprise our synod and the business that we were about was certainly conducted with prayer before, during and after - there was holiness in that. And yes, the people chosen to attend took their task very seriously, and gave the business at hand their full attention, trusting in God to guide their hearts and decisions. This, too, was holiness in action, and it was wondrous to witness. But something unexpected happened, too. Something that took me by surprise, took my breath away, took me into a unexpected and very holy experience of God.
As you know, I love prayer. I love to pray, to read about prayer, teach prayer forms, practice and experiment with prayer. Prayer is holy! Talking to God is holy. Listening to God is holy. And experiencing God in nature is holy, too.
During the synod assembly on Oahu, all the attendees were offered different excursions for Thursday afternoon. Some people went to visit the plantation villages, others to Hanauma Bay to learn about the local marine life, some went to the Arizona Memorial or a Buddhist temple. My group went to climb a muddy, rocky, sometimes steep trail up to Manoa Falls, which is about a one mile hike each way through lush rainforest. Jurassic Park IV was busy filming on location, so we almost didn’t get to hike, but finally got through. Our group consisted of people of different shapes and sizes and degrees of fitness, so we hiked separately or in twos, depending upon one’s ability and speed. I ended up alone on the trail much of the time, which suited me well. A fine mist rained down the entire time, and the local bird life was talkative and exotic. There are wild pigs in the area (which are hunted with dogs on Wednesdays and Saturdays), but I saw none on my hike, luckily. To the right of the trail was the river, whose source was the waterfall, and this chuckled and coursed busily over boulders, shaded by giant ferns and vines twisting crazily up tree trunks, huge leaves four feet across billowing in the humidity. Fallen trees covered with moss and ferns lay across the trail - but above my head - supported that way by a mound of boulders on the farther side.
As I walked and climbed the shady trail, my senses drank in the beauty of that wild place: the cries of tropical birds, the greeny shine of geckos on tree trunks, the song of the river and rocks. Attaining the goal of the waterfall, I sat breathless on a rock by the pool and let the mist from the falls wash my face, arms, and legs. Others sat as I did, their hair wearing a halo of water droplets, their eyes fixed on the downward sweep of water, 100 ft. high. Alone on the way down the mountainside, the glorious mystery of God in creation worked its way into my heart, and tears mixed with rain on my face. Pausing by the river’s edge in a clump of bamboo while I gazed into a deep pool, I prayed the prayer of adoration.  
The prayer of adoration is not a special form of prayer, for all true prayer is saturated with adoration. It is the air in which the prayer breathes, the sea in which the prayer swims. In another sense, however, it is distinct from other kinds of prayer, for in adoration we enter the rarefied air of selfless devotion. We ask for nothing but to cherish God. We seek nothing but God’s exaltation. We see clearly God’s goodness. In the prayer of adoration, we love God for Godself, for God’s very being, for God’s radiant joy. When we are filled with absolute unselfish love for God and commune with God in those moments, our response is the most direct of all; this is the prayer of adoration. Adoration is the spontaneous yearning of the heart to worship, honor, magnify, and bless God.

How long I stood there adoring God, I cannot say. But something, maybe a mosquito buzzing in my ear, shook me alert to my surroundings again, and I bowed solemnly to the river, thanking God for the gift of this prayer. This is the finest, most holy time I experienced while on Hawaii at our synod assembly. It’s not something I will forget soon, if ever. Thank you, Risen Lord, for the reminder that you are at the center of all that exists, and that in your creation, I find your fingerprints everywhere and feel your breath upon my face. Amen.

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