We’re convinced we need something that goes beyond what the world and all things finite can provide. And prayer is the most reasonable way to come face to face with that mystery ...
The saints speak of prayer as “the raising of one’s mind and heart to God” (St. John Damascene; CCC 2590). St. Thomas Aquinas understands prayer as “a raising of the soul to God” in four ways: the elevation of faith by adoring God’s greatness; the elevation of hope by our endeavoring for holiness; the elevation of charity through intimate encounter with God; and the elevation of justice by imitating God’s justice in our own actions.
We might reflect on the hope part. Dominican Fr. Jean-Pierre Torrell, commenting on the teaching of St. Thomas, notes how Aquinas refers to prayer as “the interpreter of hope” or “the interpreter of desire.” Hope itself “presupposes desire.” We live expecting something … awaiting something in life that exceeds our capacity either to understand or to bring about. But we know that Something is real and meant for us.
St. Paul outlines a dilemma we all face:
Hoping for what we cannot see means awaiting it with patient endurance. The Spirit too helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in speech (Rom 8:25-26).
The Holy Spirit, the author of prayer, interprets our hopes, our desires in moving us to pray in a way worthy of God. We bring to God our longings, our aspirations, our yearning, whatever weighs us down so that, in prayer, it can be lifted up. We’re convinced we need something that goes beyond what the world and all things finite can provide. And prayer is the most reasonable way to come face to face with that mystery, and to be ready for an answer. As Simone Weil says, “If we look to heaven long-term, God descends and lifts us up.”
St. Thomas Aquinas encourages us: “When we pray to God, the very prayer we send forth makes us intimate with him, inasmuch as our soul is raised up to God, converses with him in spiritual affection, and adores him in spirit and truth.”