Monday, October 12, 2009

The Mystery of Prayer

Let us do some theology, some deep thinking now, regarding prayer. And, let us begin with a short reflection upon the nature of God and the mystery of prayer in community. God is united in an infinite exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the very simplest way of understanding the divine union we call the Trinity. So prayer is not, in its very nature, simply a conversation with God. When we pray we participate in the divine life of love, the divine community.

As God's creatures we become entangled in the embrace of God. Through prayer we are lifted first into the community of God. And, it is in this embrace that the idea of praying or worshiping a foreign or "distant" God begins to disappear. We realize the grace of being created in such a manner as to participate in the divine union of God and it is from this realization of grace that we then truly offer our own adoration and thanksgiving.

We are able to give thanks and worship the Holy Spirit which moves over the waters of our soul and the warms our hearts with peace, grace, and love. We are able to give thanks and worship Christ who claims the world as his own, and rises so that we would be freed to hear and act out of God's acceptance rather than our own humanity. We are able to give thanks and worship the Father for we are able to see that it is God in whom we live, and move and have our very being (SSJE, Rule 21). The mystery of prayer is sacramental, and in its daily work we discover, again and again that we are members of the family of God, tied to both the community which at once is the Trinity and is also the community of the faithful.

Prayer and Life

I believe that God intends for us, through the Holy Spirit, to pray throughout our life. It is easy to find a place of prayer, a time for prayer, an organized, comfortable and perfectly reasonable way of accomplishing our prayer work. However, prayer is for life. It takes courage to bring prayer into our lives. It is a challenge to feel free to pray in the car, in our office, at our dinner table, with our children, with others, before a meeting, after a meeting, before Eucharist…however, the Holy Spirit which seeks to unify us to God also opens our hearts and eyes to discover God out in our world, at work in the world.

By praying throughout our life we discover that God is there, and we see how God "permeates our life." (SSJE, Rule 22). We are in some very real way, when we choose to follow Jesus, choosing not to simply learn how to pray, but we are choosing to learn to pray our lives. Karl Rahner, one of the major 20th century theologians and architect of the Second Vatican Council, wrote, "…I now see clearly that, if there is any path at all on which I can approach You, it must lead through the very middle of my ordinary daily life. If I should try to flee to You by any other way, I'd actually be leaving myself behind, and that, aside from being quite impossible, would accomplish nothing at all." (From Encounter With Silence, Scriptural Classics, 219)

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  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
  • "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball