Prayer in the Catechism of the
Catholic Church #1
Brother John Raymond
November 12, 1995
In the past, in this column, we have looked at the Lord's prayer
as explained to us in part by the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Now let us look at prayer from a more general point of view. How
does the Catechism see prayer? In the overall picture a Christian
believes, celebrates and lives out of the mystery of faith. This
living involves a vital and personal relationship with God. We are
told that this relationship is prayer.
What are some aspects of this relationship? One is that it is a
gift from God. What did we do to earn Baptism? This was only the
beginning of our relationship with God. It must be developed.
In our relationship with God we are like a beggar outside the
door of a very rich person. To realize that we need God is an act of
humility. We cannot live a supernatural life by our own power,
although we would like to. Isn't that the Original Sin we have
inherited from our first parents Adam and Eve? We would like to be
gods, with a small "g," without God, with a big "G." We would like
to run the show. We could well apply these words as coming from
ourselves to God, "'We piped to you, and you did not dance; we
wailed, and you did not mourn.'" (Mt. 11,17) The paradox of all this
is that when we humble ourselves, being open to God taking the lead
in our lives, then the Father will lift us up to Himself through
Christ in the Holy Spirit. Through this participation in the Trinity
we will indeed live a supernatural life and be sanctified.
God thirsts for an intimate relationship with us, but He will not
force Himself upon us. As the Catechism teaches, "Whether we realize
it or not, prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours."
(#2560) In seeing the love of Jesus for us we see God's love. Love
of its nature seeks for union with the beloved. God's love has
already been shown us in the life of Jesus, Who died for us. Prayer
is a response of faith in the salvation won for us in Christ. Also,
it is a response of love for God, a response to the thirst God has
for a relationship with us. Jesus has told various people that He is
thrilled to hear someone tell Him that they love Him. (It is no
coincidence that I am writing this on the feast of St. Margaret
Mary. Jesus told this apostle of His Sacred Heart how He poured
Himself out in love for men and what little if any return of love He
receives in return from them.) At times our acts of love will be
performed in faith as we do not feel anything. At other times the
words "I love You" well up inside us without our initiation. Both
are the workings of grace within us. That this is a relationship of
love should not be very surprising when we consider the first and
greatest commandment is to love God with our whole being.
Perhaps we have certain devotional prayers that we like to pray.
That is fine. But prayer is not a one dish buffet. What do I mean?
Well, there is vocal prayer (devotional prayers), mental prayer
(prayers that especially engages the mind), conversational prayer,
affective prayer (affectionate prayer), charismatic prayer,
liturgical prayer, contemplative prayer, etc. Like our bodily diet
prayer is a mixed selection. One type of prayer may predominate but
we shouldn't feel that we have to pray in one way only. All ways are
valuable and can be God's will for us at a particular time or stage
in our relationship with Him. We have to distinguish between the
objective best and subjective best form of prayer. It can be the
case that the objective best form of prayer may not be the best for
a particular person (subjective best.) There is some truth in the
old saying, "Pray as you can, not as you can't." In all this it is
important to continually search for where the Holy Spirit is leading
us in prayer. This discernment can be helped by consulting a
spiritual director (usually a priest.)
Above all, we need to remain flexible in our relationship with
God. Rigid beams break while more flexible ones only bend. Allow God
to mold and direct you. Allow His representatives on earth (Pope,
bishops and priests) to do so also.