Thursday, March 19, 2015

Traditional Teaching On Prayer

Prayer,is a frequent topic of Lenten Sermons; the Peace Weekly reports on the talk given by a Benedictine priest at the Cathedral Parish in Seoul. He begins with the definition of prayer as the soul to  soul talk with God, briefly describing what is central to our religious life.

This was the thinking of Clement of Alexandria (150-215) and Evagrius of Pontus (345-399). Prayer is dialogue with God. What can be said about the subject is plentiful. God transcends us but also has 'personality'. Our prayer is from one person to another. Christians believe they can relate with God.

We need to understand, he says what we mean by dialogue. It is not a simple give and take of words but the receiving and giving. Receiving the word is to hear the word attentively; giving is to respond. With this understanding we have hearing and responding. Since we have difficulty hearing what another says there is a problem with our response. Our prayer with God also has this pitfall. We need to hear what he says, and live it in our lives.

Steps for prayer: with the  body-- vocal prayer, with our head-- meditation, and with our spirit-- contemplation. We do not know God with our mental faculties, but with our whole being-- the inner recesses of our being. We have to go from the head to the inner most parts of our being. At Baptism we received this Gift from God, his Spirit.

Prayer should be short and simple. In the Gospels the  tax collector and the prodigal son were reconciled with God with few words. Prayer is not a transaction with God but done with a pure heart not to receive something but to turn everything over to the providence of God, and desire all that he wants for us.  This is the way the Blessed Mother prayed:  "may it happen to me  as you have said." Jesus in the Our Father taught us to pray: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." We pray not to have our way, but by the help of the Holy Spirit to become the tool that will accomplish his will by emptying ourselves.                                                                                                                                    
Our attitude in prayer should be one of humility. We are to lose ourselves in God. In searching for God we are to  forget our self-- the attitude of the tax collector in the Gospel. We need the attitude of gratitude. The highest point of our prayer should be as in the Mass where we thank God for all he has done for us.

Prayer continually draws us to a oneness with God, which requires sorrow for our failures; the key that liberates us from the illusions of our spirituality.