Who can know God’s counsel,
or who can conceive what the LORD intends?
For the deliberations of mortals are timid,
and unsure are our plans.
For the corruptible body burdens the soul
and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns.
And scarce do we guess the things on earth,
and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty;
but when things are in heaven, who can search them out?
Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom
and sent your holy spirit from on high?
And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight.
Anyone who takes up the practice of personal, meditative prayer soon discovers that prayer is all about relationship; it takes two in order for prayer to happen. It is, “Getting to know you, getting to know all about you”…, as the song goes in the King and I. It is about Christ the King and I. But in this striving to know Christ, I learn about myself as I see myself reflected in the eyes of him who knows me perfectly.
Who I am, where I come from, why I am here, where I am going and how I am doing, all of these are learnt through a measure outside of myself; a measure held in the hand of the Designer. The world is full of all manner of measures and standards, some of which I may already apply to myself. In prayer, all of these are set aside; some as misleading, some as outright false, but all of them inadequate if I ever hope to learn who I am in truth.
In this text from the Book of Wisdom, the author recognizes well the challenge these ponderous questions pose. (Even in this age, aided by the tools science provides, we end up with more questions than when we began.) But the author begins to understand that a Teacher is given to help us work our way through the challenges to understand life’s mysteries. “Who has learned your counsel, unless you have given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high?” This Teacher is the Holy Spirit.
So now, having proclaimed his gospel, and as Jesus prepares his disciples for his departure, he reminds them of the Teacher they will have guiding them. “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:23-26
This is what prayer is – entering the presence of the Father and Jesus, to listen, to learn, to dialogue with them – with the Holy Spirit as the “translator”, helping us understand the heavenly language. It is not with our ears and audible sounds we hear, but with the heart-to-mind.
St. Paul ends chapter thirteen of his first letter to the Corinthians: “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (New Living Translation)
The question then: “Do I pray; pray in the manner of meditative/contemplative prayer?” (These pages are devoted to encouraging and assisting this prayer.) If I have begun, is it time to refresh and renew my efforts?