PART IV: CHRISTIAN PRAYER
Section One: Prayer in the Christian Life
§ 2558 “Great is the mystery of the faith!” The Church professes this mystery in the Apostles’ Creed (Part One) and celebrates it in the Sacramental liturgy (Part Two), so that the life of the faithful may be conformed to Christ in the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father (Part Three). This mystery, then, requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the Living and True God. This relationship is prayer.
What Is Prayer?
- “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward Heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy” (MA, C-25r).
Prayer as God’s gift
§ 2559 “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God” (DFO 3, 24: PG 94, 1089C). But when we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or “out of the depths” of a humble and contrite heart? (Psalm 130:1). He who humbles himself will be exalted (cf. Luke 18:9–14); humility is the foundation of prayer. Only when we humbly acknowledge that “we do not know how to pray as we ought” (Romans 8:26), are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. “Man is a beggar before God” (Serm 56, 6, 9: PL 38, 381).
§ 2560 “If you knew the gift of God!” (John 4:10a). The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is He who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; His asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for Him (cf. DDQ 64, 4: PL 40, 56).
§ 2561 “You would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (Jn 4:10b). Paradoxically [Ironically], our prayer of petition is a response to the plea of the Living God: “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water!” (Jeremiah 2:13). Prayer is the response of faith to the free promise of salvation and also a response of love to the thirst of the Only Son of God (cf. Jn 7:37–39; 19:28; Isaiah 12:3; 51:1; Zechariah 12:10; 13:1).
Tomorrow – Prayer as covenant
(Part IV, Section 1 – to be continued)
[Editor’s Note: The abbreviations in today’s posting are noted below.]
- “cf.” – “confer [compare or refer to]”
- “DDQ” – St. Augustine, “De Diversis Quaestionibus Octoginta Tribus [Eighty-Three Diverse Questions]”
- “DFO” – St. John Damascene, “De Fide Orthodoxa [Exposition of the Orthodox Faith]”
- “MA” – St. Thérèse of Lisieux, “Manuscrits Autobiographiques [Autobiographical Manuscripts]”
- “PG” – “Patrologia Graeca [Greek Patrology]”, an enormous collection of writings of the Church Fathers and other ecclesiastical writers in the Greek language published by J. P. Migne, (Paris, 1857‑1866 A.D.)
- “PL” – “Patrologia Latina [Latin Patrology]”, an enormous collection of writings of the Church Fathers and other ecclesiastical writers in the Latin language published by J. P. Migne, (Paris, 1841‑1855 A.D.)