Lord, Teach Us To Pray: The Path to Peace Passes Through Prayer
In a world which is spiraling out of control, we who bear the name
Jesus comes to live in all who make a place for Him within the center of their lives. This "making a place" is the essence of Christian prayer. It is not about doing, but about being. The Lord wants us to freely choose to respond to His continual invitations to love. We will only find our fulfillment as human persons by entering into that kind of relationship. This is the meaning and purpose of life itself.
CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) - In a world which is spiraling out of control, we who bear the name "Christian" are called to live in peace. At the Last Supper, right before he would walk the Way of the Cross for each one of us, he spoke these words to his disciples: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid". (John 14:27) We need to hear these words today, deep inside. In that place the Scripture refers to as "the heart". The path to such true peace passes through prayer.
Jesus sets forth the relational framework for a life of prayer in the prayer we have come to know as the" Our Father". He then tells the disciples a parable concerning one type of prayer, persevering prayer for needs. (Luke 11:1-13) However, His entire time with the disciples is an instruction in Prayer. He shows them the pattern of living in continual communion with the Father. He invites them - and he invites us - into the communion of love which He has with the Father, in the Spirit.
Through His saving Incarnation, His Life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension, he removes the impediment to our entering into that communion. He also capacitates us to begin living in that communion in the here and now, by cultivating lives of prayer. Through prayer he shows us the path to the peace we long for.
After the Resurrection, the Apostle Paul, who had not walked with the Lord during His earthly ministry but was a witness to the Resurrection, writes these compelling words: "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit." (1 Thess. 5:16-19)
St. Paul wrote those words to the early Christians in Greece. They did not live lives of ease, in any sense of the word. They had families, occupations, and struggles, beyond what many of us could imagine. They also suffered greatly for their faith.
He instructed them to "Pray without ceasing". Did he really mean it? I believe that he did. The older I get, the simpler life gets. That does not mean it is "easy". I speak of spiritual simplicity, the kind of attitude which gets right to the root of what really matters. I believe that Paul meant what he said to the Christians at Thessalonica and that his words are important to those who bear the name Christian today.
Prayer is an ongoing dialogue of intimate communion with God. God fashioned men and women as the crown of His creation, creating us in "His Image", for this loving, relational conversation of life with Him. At the heart of understanding what it means to be "in His Image" is to understand the immense gift of human freedom and what has happened to our capacity to choose. Love is never coerced.
Our relationship with God was broken, separated and wounded through the first sin, the sin of origins or "original sin". That sin, like all sin since, is at root a misuse of freedom infected by pride and self sufficiency. Our ability to exercise our freedom rightly, to live His Image by directing our capacity for free choice always toward the good, was impeded through the fall. Freedom was fractured.
The "Good News" is that through Jesus Christ, the way has been opened for an even fuller communion with God, one that is restored through His Incarnation, Saving life, Death and Resurrection. In Jesus Christ we are being re-created, re-fashioned and redeemed. He comes to live in all who make a place for Him within the center of their lives. This "making a place" is the essence of Christian prayer. It is not about doing, but about being.
The Lord wants us to freely choose to respond to His continual invitations to love. We will only find our fulfillment as human persons by entering into that kind of relationship. This is the meaning and purpose of life itself. As we grow in faith through our participation in the life of grace, lived out in the Church, our capacity to respond to His loving invitation grows as well, through prayer. Prayer is also the pathway to that peace which the world cannot give - and the world cannot take away.
Prayer is about falling in love with God. Isaac of Ninevah was an early eighth century monk, Bishop and theologian. For centuries he was mostly revered in the Eastern Christian Church for his writings on prayer. In the last century the beauty of his insights on prayer are being embraced once again by both lungs, East and West, of the Church. He wrote these words in one of his many treatises on Prayer:
"When the Spirit dwells in a person, from the moment in which that person has become prayer, he never leaves him. For the Spirit himself never ceases to pray in him. Whether the person is asleep or awake, prayer never from then on departs from his soul. Whether he is eating or drinking or sleeping or whatever else he is ...
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