Prayer is the fundamental activity of the Christian; to be in the image of God means to communicate with God. Many people are intimidated by prayer, believing that there is a right and wrong way, and thinking that they will somehow offend God or make fools of themselves if they do it wrongly. It is helpful to know that our monastic ancestors were convinced that prayer is natural to us, like breathing, if we only discover it in ourselves. It is something we do, but even more, it is a gift of God to us. We do not even have to enter God's presence in prayer, because we are already in God's presence. It may be helpful to think not of entering God's presence, but rather of making ourselves accessible to prayer. Prayer shapes us and transforms us. It centers us in God and at the same time in ourselves. It is always changing, as we are always becoming new in God.
Nevertheless, this discussion of introspection and prayer and overcoming the passions in order to love might suggest that the primary reason we pray has to do with transformation. This is misleading, however, for while prayer makes us who we are, we do not pray in order to become new any more than we marry the person we marry primarily in order to become somebody else. We pray, first of all, to be with God. Secondarily we pray knowing that God has promised good things which we can expect through prayer. If we let prayer be only a means to something else we want, however, it will not be for us what it can be, and we will not be who we can be.
From To Love as God Loves: Conversations with the Early Church by Roberta C. Bondi (Fortress Press, 1987).
Monday, September 08, 2008
"Prayer is natural"
Here's today's "Speaking to the Soul" entry at Episcopal Cafe: