"The Christian spiritual path is based on a deepening trust in God. It is trust that first allows us to take that initial leap in the dark, to encounter God at deeper levels of ourselves. And it is trust that guides the intimate refashioning of our being, the transformation of our pain, woundedness, and unconscious motivation into the person that God intended us to be."
- Thomas Keating, Intimacy with God
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
This is the great and first commandment.
And a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
- Matthew 22: 37-39
What is your attitude toward God? And why is it important to consider this when traversing the spiritual journey?
Though we may have a deep longing for divine union, some of our attitudes towards God are obstacles to developing a relationship with God, much less deepening the relationship.
Early religious training, harshness from parents or teachers, and abuse or trauma suffered along the way can contribute to reflexive fear, defensiveness, distrust, and a sense of being judged that can inhibit a relaxed, open, receptive and trusting disposition towards God, not only in Centering Prayer, but also in the unfolding of our lives.
"Crystallized thoughts form attitudes. If you have continually thought in a certain way, all these thoughts crystallize into an attitude."
- Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries
Uncovering our beliefs, attitudes and motivations can help reduce the obstacles in both our desire and ability to deepen our relationship with God. The practices of the Work of Inner Christianity are useful in helping us to uncover and let go of these hindrances.
Of course, the practice of Centering Prayer itself is a doorway into cultivating a relationship with God and learning who God really is, beyond any idea, image or attitude. The very act of sitting and consenting day after day is a practice of trust and surrender that will naturally expand into our lives outside of prayer.
"If you want to get to know who God is, why don't you let him introduce himself? And here is how you do it. If you want to pray, Jesus says in Matthew 6:6, 'enter your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret and your Father who is in secret will reward you.' Now this is the formula … of how to reach the deep knowledge of God -- how to relate to the God who really is and not the God of our childhood imagination, projections, or ethnic or cultural limitations."
- Thomas Keating, Who is God? audio recording, Chicago 2000
Through Centering Prayer and the Work of Inner Christianity, we grow in trust in our relationship with God. Just as in our human relationships, it takes time and attention to cultivate the movement from acquaintanceship to friendship to union.
"It is a very great thing to realize we have to learn how to permit superior forces to enter us: they cannot come into us unless we allow them. To allow them to come in, we have to be receptive. It is a difficult thing at first to come to, but we must understand the difference between passivity and receptivity. When we are passive, we are under the sway of lower forces; but when we are receptive, we are open to what is higher. In this is the key to a great many practical problems of the Work."
- JG Bennett, The Sevenfold Work
- View the video excerpt "Attitudes Toward God." This excerpt is about 18 minutes in length. Fr. Thomas introduces two models of spirituality, the Western Model of Spirituality and the Scriptural Model of Spirituality. The Western Model is what most who were raised in Western cultures were taught in religious education and is essentially about reward and punishment based on external acts. The Scriptural Model is closer to what Jesus taught, which emphasizes cultivating a relationship with God in the present moment, what we might call the contemplative dimension of the Gospel.
A transcript is also provided for you on this page.
- Reflect on the question: What attitudes toward God might you have that get in the way of an ever-deepening relationship with God, and then by extension, all of life? Offer up these inhibiting attitudes to God for healing.
- Journey Group registration closes February 1. This is a weekly, yearlong commitment, beginning the week of February 11. You may sign-up here for either an in-person or Zoom video group. You will be asked to provide your first and second choice. If you have any questions, please reply to this email.
Resources for Further Study:
You may wish to read
An archive of previous emails may be found here.
- Chapter 2, "Attitudes Towards God" from Intimacy with God.
- Volume 3 of the Commentaries, May 15, 1948, "Self-Change (Change of Attitude)," p. 1167.