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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"The two shall become one" is from the book of Genesis originally. I think it is gen 2:24? My studies of the Theology of the Body have helped me to understand just how powerful, and how important, that simple statement is.

Payer is not an action, but a becoming. and the two become one.

the Bride of Christ, united with the eternal Bridegroom. i've often marvelled at the intimacy that union promises.

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.

His very desire for us in our earthly marriages is but a shadow of what He longs and ordained for with each of us. *sigh* the very thought makes me quiver.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on December 8, 2005 8:32 AM.

A Good Heart--A Samuel Story was the previous entry in this blog.

Good Reasons for Avoiding Prayer is the next entry in this blog.

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