As a body of Christ, I believe we need to return to the contemplative depths and roots of our life in the Spirit. The tragic malaise and afflictions I see in the church and among the ecclesiastical leaders are merely expressions of a shallow inner life and truncated spirituality, in my view.
Obsessed with head knowledge, fixated on verbosity, and compulsion with external busyness, we have lost sight of what it means to be disciples of Christ from the inside-out. Paranoid of silence and non-thinking, we have forced and constricted ourselves into a self-dug pit of religiosity devoid of the living waters of Spirit. Fear of the unknown and unfamiliar blocks our growth in the Lord.
Will we heed God’s call to retreat, revive, recover, and re-illuminate our spirits in the pleroma of our triune God in Christ? One possible approach comes from the meditative tradition of Chan, a vibrant and living East Asian spiritual culture.
In Chan practice, a distinctive method of inquiry utilizes what is termed “critical phrase” or 话头, signifying a mode of reflexive inner inquiry that traces attention back to its source. A common critical phrase is “念佛是谁?” meaning “Who is reciting Buddha’s name?”
Creatively applying this method to one’s prayer life, we can probe “祷告是谁?” meaning “Who is praying?” We can even ask “祷告对象是谁?” meaning “Who is being prayed to?” Now, isn’t it interesting to encounter prayer afresh in each moment rather than sinking into a habitual indoctrinated posture devoid of reflexive awareness?
An encrusted mind lacks potency to break through to God and is less than amenable to God breaking through to you. Why not start afresh, and ask the critical phrase? Jesus Himself challenges us with “Who do you say that I am?” Are we ready?