By Hal Green
Last month I addressed the issue of prayer and time. This month I want to address the issue of prayer and space. In fact, one of the great theological questions is where exactly prayer unfolds. Medieval mystical theologian Meister Eckhart (1260-1328) said that you can experience God only in God’s own space.
The question then arises: Does God occupy “space?” Yes, but you cannot see God’s space, which is also God’s kingdom. Nor can you see 95% of the space of the physical universe, which physics and astronomy say is not empty. Rather, current theory asserts that 68% of space consists of “dark energy” and 27% consists of “dark matter,” neither of which is visible. Yet space remains one of the great mysteries, as does time and the connection between the two.
The truth is, your “I” or soul cannot be seen by anyone except God. You cannot even see yourself, but only your embodied being together with the self-images you generate, along with the helpful and harmful input of others. Though the “space” of your inner being may be real to you, it nevertheless remains immeasurable, be it tiny or immense. Likewise, the invisible “space” between you and others, which is really a kind of shared or mutual space, sensed especially in love relationships, is actually as real as internal and external space. The space where prayer happens and unfolds is both within you and between you and God.
This means that regardless of your outer circumstances, even if you should be physically contained in a small prison cell, you can still enter into the vastness of the space between you and God. Call it the “universe of persons,” which exists invisibly together with the “universe of matter,” 95% of which is also invisible. These two constitute infinite sections or dimensions of what is termed the “multiverse” of theoretical physics.
Prayer happens both within and between you and God. You enter into the not yet fully realized universe of persons, where you began before your birth, and where you will reside after your time of embodied flesh here is over. This means that through prayer, you are never trapped in the physical universe. It is not as if you can fully enter into heaven, which you cannot as long as you remain in the flesh; but you can get into immediate communion with God, who is vast beyond measure or comprehension. These words are trustworthy and true.
Jesus says, “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). The reality is this: prayer constitutes your true and everlasting freedom. What happens in prayer is strictly between you and God. No person or power can prevent your prayer togetherness with God. As Paul insists: “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1).
Jesus also indicates that the kingdom of God, though unseen, is nevertheless “in your midst” (Luke 17:21). That same verse is just as correctly translated as “within you.” The Greek preposition used in this verse is entos, and it means both “within” and “between” or among. Thus, prayer happens simultaneously within you and between you and God. How this is so really cannot be explained or even grasped, but only moved into, in faith and freedom. That is where prayer happens and where your true freedom awaits your entrance in the shared space with God, which is your destined eternal home.
(Hal Green, Ph.D., can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)