The Inner Witness
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
The Spirit you have received and your own spirit bear a united witness. —Romans 8:14-16
The Helper, the Holy Spirit . . . will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. —John 14:26, NASB
In prayer, we simply keep returning the divine gaze, and we become its reflection almost in spite of ourselves. “All of us, with our unveiled faces like mirrors reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the image that we reflect in brighter and brighter glory; this is the working of the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NJB).
The word “prayer” has often been trivialized by making it merely into a way of asking for what you want or making announcements to God, as if God did not know (see Matthew 6:7-8). But I use “prayer” to mean any interior journey or practice that allows you to experience faith, hope, and love within yourself. It is not a technique for getting things, a pious exercise that somehow makes God happy, or a requirement for entry into heaven. Prayer is much more practicing heaven now.
Meditators and Buddhists would call this inner Knower the “Stable Witness.” Christians might call it the “united witness,” as Paul speaks of in the epigraph above. Few have unpackaged this brilliant notion in the Christian world. Only this Big Self (God + me) has the strength and capacity to fully observe each present moment in all its breadth, depth, risk, and daring invitation. Christians would rightly call this “The Indwelling” or the Holy Spirit (see Romans 5:5). You will, of course, need vigilance to keep seeing and trusting this Implanted Union because of the pressure, diversion, and seduction of the noisy, demanding world around you.
The essential religious experience is that you find yourself being “known through” more than knowing anything in particular by yourself alone (see 1 Corinthians 13:12). Yet despite this difference, it will feel like true knowing; in fact I would call it “whole-knowing” instead of the “narrow-knowing” we are used to. We can interchangeably call this different way of knowing contemplation, nondualistic thinking, or “third-eye” seeing. Such seeing takes away your anxiety about figuring it all out fully for yourself or needing to have the perfect or right formulations.
In general, the more perfectionistic, legalistic, and ritualistic you are, the less contemplative you are. For the contemplative, God becomes more a verb than a noun, more a process than a conclusion, more an experience than a dogma, more a personal relationship than an idea. The Christ is a Living Word long before he was a written or spoken word.
No wonder all of the great liturgical prayers of the churches end with the phrase: “through Christ our Lord, Amen.” We do not pray to Christ; we pray through Christ. Or even more precisely, Christ prays through us. “We do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit . . . intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26, NASB). We are always and forever the conduits, the instruments, the tuning forks, the receiver stations. We slowly learn the right frequencies that pick up the signals from the Lover.
The core task of all good spirituality is to teach us to “cooperate” with what God already wants to do and has already begun to do through us (see Romans 8:28). In fact, nothing good or life-giving would even enter our minds unless in the previous moment God had already “moved” within us! We are always and forever merely “seconding the motion.” God makes the first motion.
Gateway to Silence:
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 2:5
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2009), 22-23, 138.