I’m wallowing in the wonder of the prayer consciousness of Father Ed Hays this Lenten season. Spirituality & Practice, the website created and flourishing under the direction of Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, is offering this 40-day course via email. Each day an excerpt from Father Hays’ work appears in my inbox. His work is so rich that an email bite is about all I can take in.
Here is an excerpt from Day 4:
Day 4: Use Your Fingers in Prayer
The Koran says that God is closer than the vein in your neck. What a beautiful invitation to pray. In fact, it suggests a new way to pray. Begin by placing your first and second fingers on your throat’s jugular vein. Linger there as you feel the vigorous throbbing of life within you. Praying with your fingers on your jugular vein can be a sensual affirmation that God is not distant or remote but is pulsating within you. I personally have found this prayer gesture to be extraordinarily affirming of my core spiritual and intellectual belief, and so I present this practice for your consideration.
God is life. What better way to be mindful of the nearness of the Presence than to actually feel it vibrating on your fingertips? To gain the attention of God, your intimate Beloved, does not require bellowing prayers, clanging bells or thunderous pipe organ preludes. A silent sensual touch can profoundly awaken you to God’s perpetual attention to you and your needs.
Besides being an excellent preface to any prayer, this tactile throat prayer gesture is useful whenever you are in need of God’s presence. Use your Jugular Prayer whenever you feel yourself sinking deeper and deeper in the quicksand of an argument or trapped in a no-win discussion — or in any difficult encounter. . . .
A Jugular Prayer expresses a fidelity to the Master of Hidden Holiness. You can use it in the crowded shopping mall, at your desk, and driving home from work. Prayer rituals and postures have great value since they influence the mind and heart. Yet as one of God’s secret agents, you need not drop to your knees or piously fold your hands to pray. By innocently placing your two fingers on your jugular vein, you can silently pray to your God throbbing at your fingertips.
— Edward Hays in Prayer Notes to a Friend
To Practice This Today: Several times during the day in different locations, try the Jugular Prayer. Report on your experience of it in the Practice Circle.
I have been a fan of Father Edward Hays for many years. His books on prayer have opened my eyes for years. He’s a deep practice kind of guy. The Brusatts say:
Edward Hays has been a Catholic priest since 1958. After thirteen years in the parish ministry, including seven years as pastor to Native Americans, he made an extended prayer pilgrimage to the Near East, Israel, and India. He served as director of Shantivanam, a contemplative center in the Midwest, and as the priest chaplain at the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing. A co-founder and moving spirit of Forest of Peace Publishing, he is the author of more than 30 bestselling books on contemporary spirituality.
Over his long and illustrious career, Hays has been a pioneer manifesting a daring mystical sensibility and an unbridled imagination that makes his vision consistently fresh and invigorating. He creatively uses parables and stories to discern God’s presence within the precincts of everyday life. He often presents startling images for believers; tears are “prayer beads,” a question mark is a “holy symbol,” sleep is “a sacrament as God’s Good Night News,” and a smile is “an outward sign of a laughing soul.” His prayers, original psalms, and daily rituals provide a framework a fresh and wide-ranging devotional life.
Edward Hays is above all a master of everyday spirituality. This is a tradition that goes back to Celtic Christians who sought the presence of God in household duties, and even farther back to Jesus, who framed his teachings around common activities. Hays encourages us to read and interpret what shows up in our lives, to find places of meditation and silence where we live and work, to keep an open house in our heart for all things, to sustain the art of long looking, and to cultivate a sense of wonder.
Consider visiting Spirituality & Practice to sign up and catch up with Lent and Father Edward Hays. You’ll be glad you did.