692. Prayer as a complicated polyphony ad infinitum

Prayer as a complicated polyphony ad infinitum.jpg

When I was in junior high a Sunday school teacher told us thatwhen we pray out loud the prayer is prayed forever, because the sound waves produced by the audible prayer go on and on without end. I didn't know enough then – and still don't – about the physics of sound to evaluate the truth of that statement, but it fired my young imagination to consider the possibilities for a reality that I couldn't see or hear or even understand as well as my interaction with that reality.

Last night, reading a book review by Lauren Winner in the latest issue of Image (no. 88) reminded me of this. Her review, "Through the Ear," discusses two books about Scripture, one of which is The Art of Listening in the Early Church by Carol Harrison. In a section about theLord's Prayer, Winner writes that Harrison, drawing on the early church fathers, suggests that the prayer is "fundamentally an act of listening." God is listening and we the prayers also are listening.

Winner quotes Harrison:

"The individuals who said this prayer together would thus hear not only their own voice, along with the common voice of the faithful, but [would also hear] God, as it were, speaking to Himself." Thus prayer becomes, in Harrison's phrasing, "a complicated polyphony of speaking and hearing: God speaks to Himself; the individual and the congregation speak to God; God hears His own words and those of the faithful; the faithful hear what they pray, overhear the words of their neighbors as they pray with them, and above all, overhear God's own words."

This is a new way for me to think about the Lord's prayer. Tomorrow morning around 11:45 a.m., I'll be paying close attention to the "complicated polyphony" and wondering about the ad infinitum waves.


[Photo: another taken at the sculpture garden at Pratt College (see post from May 5).]