Monday, June 22, 2015

Prayer As Seen by an Outsider

Prayer is an important issue with those with religious belief. We have many ways of praying. Catholic traditional ways of praying and stages of prayer go back centuries. We hear about vocal, meditative and contemplative prayer. St. Teresa of Avila had the nine stages of prayer. However, one does not expect to find a column in the secular press treating five stages of prayer. A columnist in today's Chosun Ilbo  introduces us to his five levels of prayer which he  says he gathered from those who do a lot of praying.

His first level is asking for favors: money, health, promotion at work. Prayer to meet the person's needs: prayer begging God for help, which the columnist doesn't find surprising. When fire falls on  one's foot  the response is to do everything possible to put out the fire. All self-esteem is  put aside, and one cries out for help, and the mental faculties do not enter into the picture.

The second stage is paying attention to what God or the heavens are saying to the person. No longer asking, but listening quietly to what God is saying.

Thanksgiving is the third level. No matter what happens: failure in business, sickness even the death of the individual, the response is thanksgiving. To reach this level he says requires one to be at least in his fifties.Everything is in God's providence which the person acknowledges, and gives thanks.

Fourth level is praise. In everyday life all becomes prayer: eating, talking to family and friends, involved in work all is prayer. Even though he is not making any effort to pray, the prayer is automatic.

Lastly we have the stage in which there is no desire to pray and not even conscious of God.

As Catholics we can see that the columnist was very ecumenical in gathering his information on prayer, and putting it into five stages. We may quibble over some of the expressions but there is a great deal in what was expressed that we would nod in agreement, although we would not express it in the way the columnist did.  

He concludes the column by telling us that prayer begins with the first level, From the third level on we are dealing with persons who are very comfortable with prayer, and the ordinary person would not find it easy to enter. 

He also feels the place of prayer is important. A place with many rocky cliffs, and mountains is conducive to prayer. In the famous monasteries of Europe they are nestled in the rocky mountain areas of the region, very similar to the topography of Korea. He also tells us that where a Saint has prayed in the past the prayer will be more effective. On a visit to the home of St. Francis of Assisi, the columnist noticed the areas was encompassed in light.