Privation is a paradoxical concept. Classical philosophy defines privation as "the absence of that which ought to be." To experience something as a deprivation is an experience of absence in presence or presence in absence. To experience God as privation, then, necessarily means that I have already had an experience of God's presence and now I yearn for more. I like to compare it to a missing piece in a jigsaw puzzle. If I see it, I will know it because there is only one piece that will fit into that empty space. In St Augustine's prayer, "You made us for yourself, oh Lord, and our hearts will never rest until they rest in thee." This is a dynamic reading of the static statement that humans were created in the image and likeness of God.
My personal knowledge of God has little to do with any intellectual definition. All the great mystics saw our efforts to capture God with concepts and dogmas as self defeating. They recommended in prayer that we should empty our minds of thought and enter "the cloud of unknowing".
My knowledge of God comes from the hunger and thirst in myself. In the words of Psalm 63:!:
My prayer life consists in being in touch with that hunger and thirst, not letting anything fill it in or block it off from me. Rather, I strive to be in touch with that hunger and thirst, to consecrate it by converting it intentionally into prayer and identifying with it.
My prayer life then is very simple. I spend a lot of time just being in touch with that longing, being open to it and waiting. I continually ask God to come and fill in the deep deprivation within me. I identify with the desert waiting for the rain to come and soak in. As a result my prayer is continuous with my conscious awareness.
I set aside time to enter into myself, empty out all thought and rest in the presence of God. I also spend some time everyday "praying" the New York Times, formulating a prayer appropriate to every headline and article. In this way I strive to let my prayer reach out to the whole world.
At a recent Easter vigil I heard this passage from the Psalms:
I am aware that being in touch with that longing is already a kind of awareness of God through privation. This awareness is God's gift and promise.. All other touches of intimacy in my life - the intimacies of family, friendships, intimacy with a lover - are all foretastes of that ultimate intimacy, But the only intimacy that can meet my needs and fill my heart is the intimacy with God.
I particularly love the words of St. Augustine's prayer in his Confessions:
Late have I loved you, O Beauty, ever ancient, ever new; late have I loved you,
You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you.
In my unlovliness I plunged into the lovely things that you created.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
yet if they had not been in you, they would not have been at all.
You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.
You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness,
You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.
I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.
You touched me and now I long for your peace!