Sunday, September 21, 2014

The nature of prayer

In the catechism we see six kinds of prayer: blessing, adoration, petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise.

We use the word bless in two senses: we bless God for all his works, and we ask God to bless us and others. It is prayer of ascent and descent.

Most often we either offer prayers of petition (for ourselves) or intercession (prayer for others). But how often do we pray and simply offer prayers of adoration, thanksgiving or praise?

O sure, we start off with thanksgiving, but how quickly does our prayer turn into petition or intercession? We try to butter God up with some praise and thanksgiving, then we hit him with the ask.

First of all do we really think God doesn't know what we need? The truth is, we only know what we want. He knows what we need. Today's first reading ends with:

As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.

In the second reading Paul does not know which is better to die and to be with the Lord, or to live and continue his ministry. And he is willing to admit his ignorance, and to let God decide.

Above all it is the gospel that reminds us why it is that we should spend more time in prayer of blessing, adoration, praise, or thanksgiving. Because our God is above all a generous God.

When a young person is diagnosed with a terminal illness or dies. We talk about their life being "cut short" and we get angry because it seems unfair. But how is it unfair. First of all, as St. Paul reminds us, isn't death passage to full life with Christ.

Secondly, at the moment of our conception is anyone promised and particular number of days? Am I entitled to any number of years? The song from the musical Rent recalls 525,600 minutes that make up a year. We forget that each of those minutes is a gift. We don't have a right to them. We don't earn them. We do it particularly deserve them. Every single one of them is pure gift from God. But we forget that.

In mass we pray "we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks." Instead of constantly telling God what we want perhaps we need to spend more time just saying "thank you", more time praising God for his incredible generosity, adoring his loving presence in our lives. Yes there is a time and a place for petition and intercession, but we should be careful to make sure that they are not our only prayers or even the majority of our prayers. Perhaps we could divide our prayer into thirds: one third blessing and adoration, one third petition and intercession, one third praise and thanksgiving. For most of us that would be a major improvement.