I was quite excited after Robert’s last Thursday class on Jesus’ prayer, “Here I am, Lord.” This prayer has been a favourite practice of mine for years, especially in the longer version. For a period of time, it was a regular part of my morning quiet time, and it remains a helpful response to temptation practice. How surprised I was, then, to experience it in a new and deeper way during Robert’s class.
I usually say the phrase as a whole, but when Robert asked us to practice it on our own, for some reason I focused on the individual words: “Here… I… am… Lord.” Repeating the words in this fashion had a powerful effect on me. I realized that I was nowhere else but with God. “Here” was not here in my body, sitting at this desk, listening in on a telephone class. I recognized that I exist and am real only where I am with God. When and where I am not with God, I am not. The purpose of the prayer is to bring us into a state of mind in which we feel present to God. I didn’t quite experience myself as totally present to God or completely in His presence, but I know that practicing these words in this way will bring that experience closer to me. “Perhaps today, perhaps tomorrow.”
The next day, Friday, I practiced “I rest in God,” and had a similar experience, no doubt sparked by my experience with “Here I am, Lord.” At one point, I went out for a walk in the sunshine and practiced as I walked. “As I walk along this street, I rest in God…. I rest in God as I feel the warmth of the sunshine on my face…. I rest in God as I dodge this car, which turned without noticing I was crossing the street.” Then I was hit with the same kind of realization as the day before: I am resting in God right now. That’s where I am: with Him. I’m not here in this body, walking down this street. The “I” who is resting in God is what I am. I am not this body. I am spirit, with God, resting in Him, only dreaming I am walking down this street. It reminded me of the tee-shirt James had made for one of our Hallowe’en parties at the Circle: “This is not me; I am not here.” Again, I didn’t actually have the experience of being without a body and in Heaven, but the experience I did have was quite remarkable. It left me walking along, full of joy, gratitude, and love, and with a smile for everyone who crossed my path.
I think something significant is happening. I suspect that it will help me come closer to letting go of seeing this body and what it experiences in this world as real. I’m nowhere close to not experiencing myself as a body, but I am realizing that I am not a body on a much deeper level than ever before. Perhaps the experience is not far behind.
P.S. If you haven’t read Robert’s article on “Here I am, Lord,” I recommend it. Even after all these years of practicing and writing about the prayer, he still found new things to say about it!