September 10, 2017
Enough of the nonsense of treating prayer in general! I don’t mean that there are no traits of prayer that are common to all prayer; but there are some things that are unique to Christian prayer that probably demand more time and attention from us in our context.
In the Christian scheme of things prayer is not something that we do or even decide to do wholly on our own. When we pray we pray to a God who has addressed us long before we knew he existed. Pascal observes that The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob [and Jesus, I might add] is not the god of the philosophers.
The God of the philosophers is the Absolute Other to whom we have devoted so much time. The God of A,I,J is the one who overcomes the otherness that is his in order take part in our history; in Jesus, the Son of God, he actually becomes a participant in our history. What is absolutely other about the God of Jesus is that he can be more united to us than we are to ourselves — without losing his own uniqueness. The laws of arithmetic do not apply to him. Oneness for him is what love accomplishes; it is not the material state of isolation of each being from all others that we know. That is why God can be One and Three in himself and Divine and Human in the one Jesus. When Saint John says that God is love, he is not talking about some mushy, hormonal state. God’s very existence is loving-ness; if he is not being a lover, he does not exist; and whatever is not the work of a lover cannot be in him.
For a Christian to pray, then, is not a matter of seeking for God; he is part of our history. It is not a matter of seeking his will; he wants to be one with us and have us be one with him. It is not a matter of getting what selfishness or fear or pride or anger suggest; it is the work of Love to respond with love’s work only.
If, in fact, God delivers us from our enemies (or delivers them to us) or rescues us from surrounding threats (or secret failures), he does so for love’s sake — not for selfishness’ sake; this thing we sought in prayer out of selfishness is granted us so that we may learn more about love!
The god of the philosophers may answer yes/no/wait to prayers. God, the Father of Jesus Christ answers always with his love — his love for us (even if our situation is not changed), his love in us (so that our situation may become a new site of his love in the world).
Consider Jesus’ prayer in the garden, or on the cross! Was he not loved as a son is loved? Did he not become more and more clearly the presence of the Father’s love for us? Of course he was; of course he did!
Christian prayer is not a license to whine. It is a response to God’s prior love, his choice of us in Jesus, that unites us in all our whininess to the work of his love.
Really and truly and prayerfully yours,