Reflection on Prayer

When we wish to suggest our wants to persons of high station,
we do not presume to do so
except with humility and reverence.
How much the more, then,
are complete humility and pure devotion necessary
in supplication of the Lord who is God of the universe!
And let us be assured
that it is not in saying a great deal that we shall be heard (Matt 6:7),
but in purity of heart and in tears of compunction.
Our prayer, therefore, ought to be short and pure,
unless it happens to be prolonged
by an inspiration of divine grace.
In community, however, let prayer be very short,
and when the Superior gives the signal let all rise together.

Chapter 21 from Rule of Order, OSB

I receive daily excerpts from the Rule of St Benedict in my email; some days I delete them, others are very timely.

Prayer. It’s not something that I have mastered at all, I fail each and every day at it. On top of that, I sure as hell cannot convince my confirmation kids that it’s at all valuable.

We talk and talk to God all the time. We yell, laugh, cry, curse, &c at Him. Nothing happens. Not immediately. Sometimes not for years. I could point to Blessed Mother Teresa as an example of how she did not hear back from God after He told her to start a new order and a new convent. But how many people can relate to that? Perhaps things closer to home: a friend asks God for a job and he doesn’t get one for 3 years; three years spent in unemployment and rejection letters. I joke with my friend, “Don’t tell me that!” Or Johnny asked Jesus, through his devotion to the Sacred Heart, entrusted their first baby, only to miscarry.

God hears us, supposedly. He supposedly cares. So why doesn’t He do something about what I’m going through? If I were truly a Child of God, would this have happened? Some God you are, never looking out for Your followers. What kind of Father are you? Not any kind of Father I know of! If this is what its like to be your child, I don’t want anything to do with you or your wretched chosen ones*.

We are so damn narcissistic in our spiritual lives. It’s all about us: me, me, me, ad nauseum. There is no room for the Other, or for other possibilities. Maybe God is creating the situation that will provide you with the answer that you are seeking? Perhaps there is some lesson you need to learn; who said that learning would be pain free? Have we learned to brush and floss because it is fun, or because drilling cavities hurts?

There’s pain and frustration behind all the questions and prayers that we put forward to God. We are needy, and there is nothing wrong with that! He can handle the pain and the frustration. That Man has starved for 40 days! He has been under so much stress that the capillaries in his skin broke and he sweated blood! His closest friends betrayed him, denied that they ever knew him. How can you say that He does not understand the pain? Does not know the anger, frustration, anxiety, sorrow, &c?

We throw it all at Him, expect an instantaneous reaction, and leave Him as soon as it becomes clear that He’s not responding in the way we would like. You gonna tell God how to respond?

How do we know if God has responded? How do we hear him? see him? know him? feel him? How do other people respond to you? Do they send you songs, poems and thoughts? Do they tell other friends to hang out with you, or direct you to others? Do they make suggestions that you brush off at first? Do they ask you to read something? To consider an alternative? Do they force you into something (i.e., counseling, roller coasters)? Do they let others speak on their behalf? Do you have to wait days for them to return calls or emails? Why can it not be the same with God; does every communication with you need to be an extraordinary measure? Will He never talk to you – no; when you get the chance to to hear His voice, theres’ no doubt. When you get the chance to feel His love, you won’t be able to mistake it for something else.

If you want a Scriptural basis; I won’t list verses but mannerisms:

  • Nature (i.e., the fire versus the earthquake versus the small wind)
  • Prophets/other people (Isaiah, Habbakuk, Hosea)
  • Closed doors (obstacles)
  • Open windows (not the way out you wanted, but out nonetheless)
  • miracles
  • His voice
  • the Saints
  • Angels (St Luke’s Gospel & Moses)
  • Demons (Job)
  • Dreams (Joseph: OT, NT)
Always remember, how He talks with you is different from others.

based on a question

*Monday, October 25, 2004. notebook journal