The Inclusivity of Contemplative Prayer

by Nancy Ann Edwards

The idea of inclusivity doesn’t always work in the real world. It is not how the real world always operates. Our human condition is governed by political, religious, and socio-economic bodies of government which often require us to make choices. You cannot even vote in the primary elections in the state of Nevada where I live unless you first declare yourself as either a Democrat or a Republican. They won’t give someone who declares themselves an independent the right to vote in the primaries. You have to first choose your party.

One time when a tv host asked a little boy who was the boss in his family, his father or mother, his answer was both. “You’re quite the diplomat “ said the host. “No!” cried the little boy. “I’m a Catholic Baptist!” Everybody laughed at the supposed absurdity of the young boy’s answer. No matter how religiously inclusive we, as adults, say we are or want to be in our beliefs, we will undoubtedly choose one spiritual path to follow. We can appreciate one another’s belief systems, but we will make a choice and follow one of our own. It would be too difficult, too confusing to remain on multiple paths at the same time.

In the family social network choices can become even more demanding, complex and difficult. Family members often grow apart as they experience life in different ways. This affects their perceptions and can sometimes lead to major disagreements, long periods of estrangement, and lack of acceptance between one family member and another—a painful process indeed. Unlike political or religious differences, conflict within the family itself can leave one of its members feeling lost, not knowing to whom or where they belong.

In contrast, there is a type of tribe-like unity we see in nature. I call it keeping up with the herd. Animal prey run together in the wild, the weakest loses pace, falls victim and dies. The rest just go on. But in our species, even the dead are not forgotten. We never forget our family members including those who have died. Memorial Day commemorates those who have lost pace and fallen. We do not run with the herd. We make choices. We choose.

God has put us in a world that is, unfortunately, not always easy and not always inclusive. It can, in fact, be painfully exclusive. We have to strive to reach the ideal of inclusivity and peace while on this earth. The life of Jesus gives us an example to follow. Christ even left us the gift of His Spirit to comfort, guide and encourage us as we move closer to a unified whole.

I believe God’s love will join all together inclusively when He wills it either in time or for an eternity. Only God Himself can embrace the whole of our creation, everyone and everything in it. But we, as humans can come close to this Spirit of inclusivity, this wholeness of being, while meditating upon Our Lord in contemplative prayer. In our tradition we meditate silently repeating the words “Maranatha, Come Lord,” the second oldest prayer in Christianity, the Our Father being the first.

God has put us in a world where we are destined to make choices, but in meditative prayer I often feel the inclusivity of His divine love and I am able to put the necessity of having to make worldly choices temporarily aside. At this time I let the Lord Himself take over until my prayerful time with Him ends and the need to carry His Spirit of peace and inclusivity into the world begins.

This time of Maranatha, our contemplative Christian meditation, is as wide, as beautiful and all-embracing for me as one can ever imagine. It is a time where I know for sure that God does not discriminate. As the gospels say “He lets the rain fall and the sun shine [on everyone] saints and sinners alike.” It is not for me to judge or to say what is the mind of God, but I can say from experience for certain, especially during meditative prayer, that I have many times felt the inclusivity of His never ending infinite love.

The photo is a detail of a mantel centerpiece created by Nancy’s husband, Sam, showing some of the major faiths of different cultures in a natural setting.