Prayer and Praying: December 2005 Archives

I have a million of them:

It's too hot outside
It's too cold.

I volunteer for the Church.
I need to volunteer for the Church.

I'm reading about it so I can do it better.
I'm reading about it so I can see how others do it.
I'm reading about it so I don't have to do it but can still say I pray.

I'm writing about it to inform others.
I'm writing about it to inform myself.
I'm writing about it so I can avoid actually doing it.

I need to take the dog for a walk.
Oh gosh, I don't even have a dog.
Well, I guess I can take the hamster for a walk.
Or the fish.
Heck, I need to take a walk, and heaven knows you can't pray while doing nothing.

I'm not in the right place.
I'm in the perfect place but it is too beautiful.

I'm not in the mood.
God doesn't listen anyway.
I'm only talking to myself.

I have work to do.
I need to wash dishes.
I need to clean the house.
I need to play games with Samuel.
I need to wash the car. (Ha, in all the cars I've ever owned sponge has not touched metal--but it sure rings true as an excuse.)

I'm too sad.
I'm too stressed.
I'm too happy.

I need my space--why does God need me constantly pawing at Him anyway?
God need's His space, He's tired of hearing the same old things.

I'm too sinful.
I'm too tired.
I'm too bored.
I'm too nostalgic.
I'm too . . .

It's too nice a day to remain indoors with a musty old book.
This musty old book is far too interesting to allow myself to become distracted with mere communication.
I'm not good enough.
I don't love enough.

But all of these boil down to one thing. I don't care enough. When God is the priority, all of these excuses melt into opportunities for prayer. But making God a priority is often not a priority with me. I distract myself endlessly with myself. I have a million million concerns and all of them take precedence.

Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you. (Matt 6:33)

It isn't a suggestion, it's reality. This is the law I live. God is either first in my life or He is nothing. He is either present in my thoughts, the first word on my lips, or He is so far down the list of priorities He can't even be seen. Can you guess where He winds up most of the time?

I'd like to say I was Martha in a Mary world. But the reality is, if I look at it very closely, I can't even claim to be a Martha. How much of my busyness is really directed at service to the Lord and His people? How much of each day is devoted to serving others?

And you know, despite all of this, despite my own reluctance, despite my own shying away from God, still He invites me in. Still He calls to me and keeps calling until any human voice must be hoarse. Still He welcomes me and makes a place for me by His side. Still He is the Father who loves me and who waits patiently for my love. He waits for the distractions and baubles of the world to lose their glamor. He waits. And all the while He waits, He sends me His messengers of love, His constant and overflowing love for me is present every day and every moment of every day.

And someday I may pay attention. Grace will prevail despite my wiliest resources. Someday I will turn to God first. This I know because He has promised it.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. . . (Matt 7:7)

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A Secret About Prayer

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Much of what we can know about prayer stems from what we know about God. In the first part of the Summa Theolgiae, Aquinas cites this objection to the opponents of God's simplicity:

On the contrary, Dionysius says (Div. Nom. ii): "There can be no touching Him," i.e. God, "nor any other union with Him by mingling part with part."

God is utterly simple. There is no mixture in Him and unlike cannot mix with like. Another way to say this is that there is no communication between like and unlike. The word communicate comes from a Latin root that means "to make common to many, share, impart" (O.E.D.) God communicates with us in prayer through the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. That is, He touches the divine within us to communicate Himself with us. He cannot share or make common to many what is of unequal substance. He cannot blend with what is not simple.

Prayer then isn't so much an ACTION as it is a way of being. And, at that, an exemplary way of being. Because prayer isn't so much a list of petitions, questions, or colloquies with God; rather, prayer is the process of divinization, wherein God truly begins to communicate Himself with us and in the process transforms us.

It's a little daunting to think about. Prayer is not an action, but a becoming. As we grow in prayer God purifies us to grow more in prayer. As we continue the path of prayer we become more like what we pray to. That is the end of prayer.

In such a way the old forms of (at least the protestant form of Marriage, and I think they derived ultimately from the Catholic) say that the "two become one." Marriage is a sacrament because it bestows grace and also because it is a sign of the ultimate end of each human being in God. The two become one. There is only one way for this to happen. God cannot lower Himself. He will not become a being of parts to accommodate a divided humanity. Rather, humanity must become as He is. If the two are to become one, the transformation must be on our part.

Prayer is the process of transformation. It may start with simple petitions, forms, and rites of prayer--rote examples. But prayer grows with the person praying and with grace. The growth is directly related to the desire one has to pray.

Too often we channel this desire into paths we find more acceptable. They allow us to think we are praying and thus feel good about our prayer life even as we deftly avoid anything like a prayerful attitude. This most often happens with those of us disposed to reading about and writing about prayer. We become so preoccupied with these very good things that we manage to avoid engaging in the act itself.

But prayer is so simple, it does not need an explanation. Prayer is the triumph of One Desire, the Desire of the Ages, over all the other desires that define each person. Prayer is to want the One Thing Necessary above all other things. We engage in prayer actively when we long for God, when He is front and center in our thoughts and in our actions. The degree of transformation is directly related to the degree of desire, which in turn is fed by grace and by responding to the desire, not with displacement (reading about prayer, buying things, conversing with a neighbor, busying ourselves with tasks that can fill the emptiness that this desire seems to summon) but with being present. We present ourselves as we are, where we are, no matter what we are doing, as people ready to change and be changed. And in changing we grow in our desire to please Him, to become more like Him, to ultimately become One with Him and communicate in the way of a single being.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Prayer and Praying category from December 2005.

Prayer and Praying: November 2005 is the previous archive.

Prayer and Praying: January 2006 is the next archive.

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