Friday, July 14, 2006

Why Do You Pray?

William A. Barry, S.J., the author of numerous books on prayer and spiritual direction, is co-leader of the tertianship program for the New England Province of the Society of Jesus in Weston, Massachusetts, writes in America magazine:
So the God in whom we believe wants a relationship of intimacy and partnership with each of us and all of us together. He wants us to be one family. If this is true, then God’s creative desire, which brings the whole universe and each one of us into existence, touches us in the depths of our hearts. We are made for union with God, and our hearts must want that union at a very deep level. Augustine wrote, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Julian of Norwich echoes the same idea: “For by nature our will wants God, and the good will of God wants us. We shall never cease wanting and longing until we possess him in fullness and joy. Then we shall have no further wants.” Why do I pray? I pray because I believe in this God. Not only that, I pray because my heart aches for God even though I also am often afraid of closeness with God. I have met many people who express this longing for God.

All of this brings us to the question of how to satisfy this longing for God. The simplest answer is to engage in prayer. Here is where the hope that I might have something useful to say about how to pray comes into play. If God wants a relationship of intimacy and partnership with each of us (and all of us as a people), and if we have a reciprocal desire for such a relationship, then prayer is similar to what happens in any relationship of intimacy. Intimacy between two persons develops through mutual self-revelation. So in prayer I try to let God know who I am and ask that God reveal himself to me. It’s that simple. As with Abraham, it is a matter of growing mutual transparency. As we grow in trust in God, we reverse the results of the sin of Adam and Eve. We are not ashamed to be naked before God, that is, to be open with all our thoughts, feelings and desires.

May all of us, especially those of us interested in politics and religion, remember the need for prayer. The rest of the article is here.