Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Practice of Prayer - Two


There is a popular expression you may be familiar with, "If it ain't broke don't fix it" A spin off from this saying might sound like this, "I'm OK, I'll call you if I need you." 

It appears that many today view God, religion and prayer in a similar way. One goes to church and prays only when they need something. 

We see a marked decline in church attendance these days. While the number of people who claim not to believe in God is increasing, more often the reason given for not going to church is that people do not see the need to go. Church and prayer are otherwise irrelevant. "I'm OK, I don't need fixing."

In the second chapter of his book, Opening To God, Thomas H. Green discuses what it is that makes prayer relevant. He draws an analogy between prayer and human love - specifically the love between husband and wife. The love that brings a husband and wife together is something they experience, rising up from within. It begins when they first encounter one another. They discover in the other something truly good that attracts them. It's this that continues to motivate them to seek out the other; not out of personal needs but out of a desire to share with and to share in the good they see in the other. 

Encounter = True Goodness = Attraction = Motivation = Bonding = LOVE

If you were to ask a longtime married couple the secret of their marriage, they may take you through a recounting of these various stages, but they would tie it all together with one word, LOVE. What brings  a marriage through the good times and the struggles, that all marriages experience, is the enduring bond of love, which more often than not, simply defies explanation, it just is.

What distinguishes the "practice" of prayer from simply saying prayers is the bonding together between the pray-er and God. "Getting to know you, getting to know all about you ... and all the beautiful and new things I'm learning about you ..." as the song goes. (The King & I)

God is the initiator of the encounter we call prayer. Jesus says, “You have not chosen me, I have chosen You (Jn 15:16) St Paul in his epistle to the Romans (8:14-34), gives magnificent expression to the fact it is the Spirit of God who works in us – not only to justify us but to teach us how to speak to God; that, in fact, “that we don’t know how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be expressed in speech. And he who searches hearts knows what the Spirit means, for the Spirit intercedes for the saints as God wills ‘ (Rom 8:26-27). T.H.G.

Fr. Green rightly points out that this encounter with the Lord is primarily the work of the Spirit. St. Pope John XXIII prayed in 1962 for “a new Pentecost” to be experienced in the Church. In preparation for the Second Vatican Council, he prayed for God to, “Renew Your wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost". The opening prayer of the Council prayed, "Unite us to yourself in the bond of love and keep us faithful to all that is true." [LINK]

Following the conclusion of the Council, in various ways, and through various movements this grace, [A Personal Encounter With Christ] [The Grace of Renewal] [The Baptism In the Holy Spirit] and the like, was experienced throughout the Church.

The Council closed under Pope Paul VI on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1965. It is now some 50 years since its conclusion and as mentioned at the start of these remarks, the practice of the faith appears to be experiencing a decline, primarily in the Western nations. Is it because the Spirit is not speaking to us, or is it that we are not listening? I suspect it is the later. Perhaps it is because our listening is being inundated by a tsumoni of digital bits and bites preventing us from hearing the Spirit calling us.

NO TIME, TOO BUSY: "Look, I am so busy right now, so much to do, so many plans waiting to go. I'll call you when I can find time." If this is the response a friend hears when they call the other to get together, the friendship is basically over.

Two questions:

  1. Have I encounter the Lord personally, inspiring me to form a bond of the heart?
  2. If so, how are we doing - growing together - drifting apart?

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