Prayer involves "a certain loss of noetic control to the leading experiential force of the Spirit in the face of our weakness." Sarah Coakley, "Living into the Mystery of the Holy Trinity" Trinity, Prayer and Sexuality. Anglican Theological Review LXXX 2, 1998.
I read this article today by Sarah Coakley. Very interesting. Coakley explores prayer of a relatively wordless kind. She deconstructs Romans 8 and its 'sighs too deep for words,' (Rom 8:26).
This was one of those verses that God used to bring my Christian faith, always lived but half-breathed (I am a cradle Anglican) into a fullness I only came to understand when I discovered what God and Christ had done for us in giving us the Holy Spirit.
Coakley explores the 'entanglement of our human sexual desires and our desire for God saying '... there is an instant reminder of the close analogue between ceding (to the trinitarian God) and the ekstatsis of human sexual passion...intimate relationship is at the heart of both these matters.'
Coakley's is the 'task of re-threading the strands of inherited tradition on these ...matters in such a way that enacted sexual desire and desire for God are no longer seen in mutual enmity, as disjunctive alternatives...'
She concentrates on Romans 8 for how it communicates
i) a certain loss of noetic control to the leading experiential force of the Spirit in the face of our weakness
ii) an entry into a realm beyond words, beyond rationality or logos; and
iii) the striking use of a (female) 'birth pangs' metaphor to describe the yearning of creation for its 'glorious liberty.' (8:22)
She suggests that 'Instead of thinking of 'God' language as really being about sex (Freud's reductive play), we need to understand sex as really about God, and about the deep desire that we feel for God - the clue that is woven into our existence about the final and ultimate union that we seek.'
Sarah Coakley expresses what I have struggled to express for a while, whilst it is sometimes better to keep reflections on this topic to oneself, she expresses articulately and with a certain academic finesse what might otherwise come out of my mouth with a degree of awkwardness, so I thank Sarah Coakley for that.
A friend and I have theories about prayer and other experiences of life very bound up with child-birth from the beginning of that process through to the end and including breast-feeding. They are very half-hatched thoughts and not something reflected upon very often but there are connections and possible routes for healing ministry for it would seem that our very worst angsts are also often experienced when these life-giving unions either fall short of expectations or become burdened down by all kinds of baggage.
Today, we learnt in college that we need to be 'real' in prayer. We looked at the womb-likeness of Jonah's fish, how being born again is accompanied by mess; it is undignified, Jonah is spat out. Birth is not polite. In all of the intimacies I have alluded to here there is an accompanying foolishness as we bear flesh, real and metaphorical, and become vulnerable with or for an 'other'.
Prayer might also release us into healthy intimacies, our redemptive God has a holistic approach to each one of us. There is surely healing in that.