“Jesus took with him Peter and James and John,
and went up the mountain to pray.”
I was fortunate to visit the place where, by tradition, this story may have taken place, Mount Tabor in Galilee.
We didn’t walk up the mountain. We drove. As we wound our way around the 1886 foot high mountain, the fog and drizzle came close. At the top, it really was like we were inside a cloud. Just like the story ….
“And while they were saying this,
a cloud came and overshadowed them.”
Whenever this story comes up, I remember being there. I remember the sense of being inside the cloud.
Perhaps, one of the things this story is, is a vision of what it looks like when you are inside prayer.
What is really happening when we pray? If this is a story about seeing what’s going on when we pray, what can we learn from this story?
Inside prayer there is always Light. In the beginning, God said “Let there be Light.” This was the first creative act of God, and from this moment God poured Light into everything. Everything. If we could see it, we would see Light in all things. That’s what the disciples glimpsed for a moment. They saw the glory of the One who knew himself to be the Light of the World. They saw Light. And that’s why we talk about holding people in the Light when we are praying.
Inside prayer there is always Love. Like at his baptism, a voice comes from inside the cloud in this story too and said: “You are my own, my Beloved.” No matter what we bring to prayer, we are always held inside Love. That’s what the disciples heard. They heard Love. We can too. “You are my own, my Beloved.”
Inside prayer there is always a sense of Oneness, Unity or Wholeness. It’s hard to find the words for this. We see differently. There is a seamlessness to life. We are in the present moment, neither regretting the past or worrying about the future. No wonder Peter wanted to stay. I think he got it right. This is the moment of Presence when we know nothing will separate us from the love of God.
Inside prayer there is always community. Jesus was there with Moses and Elijah. There was a union of past and present. There was a fusion of Law and Prophets. Jesus was there with Peter, John and James. It was a small community of faith. Whenever we pray, even alone by our bedside or the quick prayer that comes to our lips in a moment, we are never really praying alone. We are connected to an energy of pray-ers in every moment and space. As the mystic saint, Hildegard says, “We join our breath to the One Breath of the universe.”
Do we always experience prayer like this? Well, no …. 99% of prayer is just showing up, just being willing to go up the mountain to pray. It’s hard work climbing a mountain. And sustaining prayer is hard work. We work at making space to pray whether we feel like it or not. No, we don’t see the transfiguration of being inside prayer every time we sit down. We are invited just to show up, to make ourselves available. Day after Day.
You know what I think? I think that what is described in this transfiguration story is what is happening in every prayer. Every time. No matter how long, how rushed, how boring the prayer … There is Light. There is Love. There is Oneness, Unity or Wholeness. And we are not alone. We just don’t see it clothed in our present consciousness.
But we glimpse it every once in a while. Wait for it.
Pray however your heart leads …. go for a walk, murmur a familiar mantra or verse of scripture, sit for a sit, meditate, whisper the prayers that are praying in your heart, pray the newspaper, cry, sing, or be silent. Be inside prayer.