Our prayers are often a sad litany of questions, worries, and lamentations ... but this one change can deepen your prayer life.
So often we pray according to our state of mind, the highs and lows of our personal life, that we confuse it with our spiritual life. But what if we tried to pray with His heart as our starting point? This means being a bit more objective and confident in prayer — after all, God “loved me and gave himself for me,” says St. Paul (Gal 2:20). And St. John reminds us that “God is greater than our hearts” (1 Jn 3:20).
Thank you, Lord!
“That which we have heard, which we have seen with our own eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands” (1 Jn 1:1): that’s the true departure point of prayer. The pagan prayed to a more or less threatening, unknown, and implausible god. One had to draw a god’s attention to earn blessing. But, as Christians, we pray to a God who is our friend, who created us, who never ceases loving us, who saves us. Before we ever think of Him, He thinks of us: “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us” (I Jn 4:10).
Christian prayer is an echo of the Word of God, a response given to the gift of God. That’s why it always has (or should have) a spirit of praise and thanksgiving at its heart. The spirit for instance of the New Testament canticles, of Zechariah’s Benedictus, of Mary’s Magnificat, of Simeon’s Nunc dimittis. To which can be added the blessings that open the letters of St. Paul or the acclamations that punctuate Revelation. It is also the spirit of the liturgy, from morning praises (lauds) to the evening benediction which have, at their core, the ultimate “thank you,” from the Greek “Eucharist.” The Son gave thanks to his Father not only through words, but through the body he offered up. And He invites his Church to espouse this sacrifice of thanksgiving, the living and perfect expression of love and gratitude.
The praise at the heart of all prayer
For lack of sufficient breath or wings, our prayer may not fly high. But when we pray with the breath of the Spirit, with the grace of the wings of that dove, we’re as though caught up in spiritual joy. But we must still grasp the nature of this lightness of spirit. It’s not a blindness before the suffering of the world; it’s not some wide-eyed optimism; it’s not some naive effort to see all things at any cost for the good. No, it’s the fruit of contemplative faith, of a new godly perspective on ourselves and the world, of an awareness of the merciful love that envelops all, great and small, that illuminates and redeems human history from start to finish.
In other words: it’s a revelation (from the Greek “apocalypse,” the message given us in the last book of the Bible). Yes, “it is truly right and good, always and everywhere, that we give you thanks for your great glory!”
Christian prayer is naturally musical
Don’t be afraid to sing out your prayer! If your’re heart isn’t in it, joyful song will put it back! So what if the neighbors think you’ve gone a bit crazy — you can be crazy for God!
Especially for children, it’s important to instill this climate of joy, with singing, and even gestural prayer. And it doesn’t hurt adults to do the same: it only helps all the more to leave our over-wrought worries behind. And hallelujah for that!
Father Alain Bandelier