A friend of mine (Mikey Maybe) encouraged me to curate prayers on this blog site. The invitation resonates with my joy to translate the encryptions of God into prayer – for prayer is not the stuff of dogma, it is the expression of enigma. It is saying, “I don’t know, but what I do know draws me deeper into the vast expanse of God’s character and universe: will you hear me?”
The title of this post is borrowed from Michel Quoist‘s 1954 book by the same name:
“If we knew how to listen to God, if we knew how to look around us, our whole life would become prayer. For it unfolds under God’s eyes and no part of it must be lived without being freely offered to him.”
At first we communicate with God through words which may be dispensed with later on. Let us then make use of the following pages, but soon discard words as one does the peelings of a fruit.
Words are only a means. However, the silent prayer which has moved beyond words must always spring from everyday life, for everyday life is the raw material of prayer.”
For some unknown, but wonderfully gracious reason, I have never been cynical about prayer. I take it as the native language of the spiritual person in search of and in communication with God. It is not merely speaking into the unknown to the unknown. It is the most honest communication you can have within the security and significance of the One with whom you are speaking.
Clement of Alexandria said, “Prayer is keeping company with God.” Aelred of Rievaulx translated “God is love” (I John 4:8) into “God is friendship.” Thus James M. Houston writes “Our prayers are a response to the friendship and love of God.” (I highly recommend his book on prayer: Transforming Friendship).
“…if we are privileged to pray along with [an experienced Christian], if he lets us accompany him on his way to God and teaches us to pray, then we are free from the agony of prayerlessness…”
This agony of prayerlessness is the suffering of silence to God for which we were never intended. Neither is praying alone – at least not for long. As Bonhoeffer notes, we may be privileged to join spiritual guides who rescue us from the anguish of a silent solitude. Is this what Jesus meant when he said, “if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them”(Matthew 18:19, 20).
We were made for prayerful interaction. It matters not if you know how or what to pray – as you will see when you pray with our first Mentor – Bishop Francois Fenelon of the late 17th Century: “Teach me to pray; pray Yourself in me.”
“Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of You; only You know what we need; You love me better than I know how to love myself.
O Father! Give to Your child that which he himself knows not how to ask. I dare not ask either for crosses or consolations; I simply present myself before You, I open my heart to You.
Behold my needs, which I know not myself; see and do according to Your tender mercy.
Smite, or heal; depress me, or raise me up; I adore all Your purposes without knowing them; I am silent; I offer myself in sacrifice; I yield myself to You; I would have no other desire than to accomplish Your will.
Teach me to pray; pray Yourself in me.”
May you discover both, your life as the raw material for prayer, and the God who inspires the desire to speak in the first place. Amen.