Prayer is for Lovers Only

Can we overestimate the value of good, clear communications? I think not. So many disasters, failures and disruptions can be traced to inadequate communication.

An example that comes to mind is the credible demonstration made by several historians of how Hitler could have been stopped in his tracks in 1938-9, had those in Germany, who were prepared to depose him, been understood by the British Prime Minister and others whose cooperation was essential. History is filled with such examples and our own lives give testimony to the same basic weakness. We could go on to discuss the impact of poor communication on everything from Church policy to marital stability; but the area to which I would direct your attention for the moment is that of "prayer."

Prayer is absolutely central to our religious life and practice. The misunderstanding of it is a source of much grief and frustration among those who long for union with God. Prayer is the process of communication between God and ourselves. This may be an oversimplification to some but further refinement would lead us down a purely academic trail. It is enough for our purpose to recall the traditional distinction between prayer of praise (adoration), thanksgiving and petition. Praise and thanksgiving present relatively few problems for the average pilgrim but prayer of petition is another story.

In its essence, prayer is conversing with God. Once we accept that God "is" and "is everywhere," we must conclude that, like it or not, we are continuously and intimately in His company. It would be ridiculous not to talk to Him.

But what do we say to God? A young boy going out on a VERY important date once asked me what he should say to her when they first came face to face. When I asked him the next day which of the several, carefully rehearsed "entrance antiphons" he used, he smiled somewhat ruefully and said, she was so beautiful that I forgot all my lines and just stared and said... "How's it goin'?"

What do we say to God? Well, we can praise Him and thank Him in our own words and as members of a worshiping community we can do so through our liturgies, especially that of the Eucharist. But if all else fails we can look at a crucifix and ask Him how it's goin'! Don't forget to wait for His answer.

What about asking God for what we want from good weather on a special day to a miraculous cure? There are so many objections raised to this kind of prayer. They range from telling us that we cannot change God's mind to that we are insulting a busy God with our petty problems. What nonsense! The purpose of prayer is not to change the eternal mind of God but to change us; and when did Jesus refuse to hear any petition? Volumes have been written on why we ought to bring our problems to God but they all boil down to one basic reason. BECAUSE HE WANTS US TO DO SO. And that should be enough. We should not dig our heels into His earth and ask why as though we suspect that He is just humouring us.

There are no rules in prayer. Be yourself. Your style of praying is going to vary from the styles of others as much as is the case with our conversations with each other. Some of us talk a little and listen a lot. Some talk a blue streak and fail to listen. Some, especially close friends speak volumes with very few words. I am reminded of the saintly Cure of Ars (St. Jean Vianney) famous for his devotion to prayer, who when asked for his "secret" would reply: "It is very simple, I look at God and God looks at me."

Think of prayer as a running conversation between two people who love and respect each other without reservation.

I love you... I love you too.

I am afraid it might rain... Rain or shine, you can make it a great day.

Help me!... All my resources are at your disposal.

Cure my illness!... The moment might hold pain, look to the
cross, and, in the light of eternity, all will be well.

My beloved is dieing!... He / she is leaving you and coming to me.

I am sorry!... You are forgiven.

You ARE the greatest... You are my pride and joy.

One thing that these conversational scraps have in common is that strictly speaking they are unnecessary. As we are fond of saying... "It goes without saying"... But who can deny that saying it and hearing it, if only in our hearts, is comforting and enriching. God knows this and He wants us to know it too.

God loves you. Be convinced of this and you will be well on the way to loving Him. Then the stage will be set for prayer, liturgical and personal.

When the Apostles asked Jesus to teach them how to pray He gave them His prayer. Remember that revealing Gospel scene?

"Our Father... Jesus used a familiar name for Father, almost like dad, a family name. Thus was the Fatherhood of God transformed from a theological doctrine into an immediate and intense experience. With these words Jesus let it be known that when we pray we are heard, understood and loved.

How important prayer must be in the overall plan of God for each of us!

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