by Tim Belben
from Signs of the Times No. 56 - Jan 2015
It is easy for most of us to dismiss the dominical prohibition - regarding the impossibility of trying to serve God and mammon - as if applying only to extreme examples of mammon (banking, for instance), but the impossibility of service to both, or the un-wisdom of attempting it, applies, I think, more to states of mind.
If your mind is filled with some pending or recent acquisition, nor investment, or a new car, kitchen - or a planned holiday, for instance (or even a new potato peeler or a new kitchen mixer), it is very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve that space of mind (and space is needed for peace: the space, or do I mean peace?) necessary for contemplative prayer. To be able to fill the mind with the infinite takes all the space (or peace) possible.
Peaceful contemplation is difficult enough without competition from mammon - and mammon will always compete, except perhaps for those few, favoured, people - ascetics, or religious, maybe, so practised in self-denial and in denial of worldly distractions, that mental prayer or contemplation is their default state of consciousness. That happy band, whose absence of mind is rewarded by peace of mind, rather than (as for most of us) with the distractions of the world ‘where thorns grow up and choke’, to change the metaphor. And to function as contemplation ought, it should be a default mode, the state of mind into which one falls naturally, not merely from the result of the struggle of a set period of prayer. Readiness, strength from the struggle of such a set period, is a grace that often, it is hoped, rewards the struggle of prayer: but it is seldom attained by accident, and mammon will fight back with new distractions - drawn, it must be admitted, from the ready storehouse of our own sub-conscious.
A form of words can be a help - a mantra repeated mainly with the intention of excluding distractions. Some use the ‘Jesus’ prayer:
O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
have mercy on me, a sinner
which can be extended by dwelling on each word, as ‘O’ for worship, ‘Lord’ for obedience, ‘Jesus’ for healing, ‘Christ’ for the Kingdom, ‘Son of God’ for our link to the infinite.