Listen to this story:
We are the children of God. We are not orphans.
Many times in life, the fallenness of our hearts wish to lead us into thinking we’re abandoned, or that we must be the sole self-creators of our lives and livelihood. And yet in the midst of such struggles, there is another truth yearning to be heard and pining to be accepted, namely, the radical truth of the one true God’s immense love for each of us. It is a love so profound that we were created through it and are called to share in it throughout our lives and even into eternity.
As Pope Benedict XVI taught us: “We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”
Whenever we pray, we make an act of faith in God’s love for us. We show our desire, however faint or strong, to make a connection with God and to accept and live in the covenant he has made with us.
For this reason, the Catechism of the Catholic Church emphasizes that prayer is a covenant and communion with God. The Catechism explains: “In the New Covenant, prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit.”
The struggle to pray is the struggle to believe in love.
The Catechism emphasizes this point: “God calls man first. Man may forget his Creator or hide far from his face; he may run after idols or accuse the deity of having abandoned him; yet the living and true God tirelessly calls each person to that mysterious encounter known as prayer.”
Such a realization about prayer can turn things upside down for many believers. In a world that is obsessed with money, a business attitude, a mercantile spirit, and relationships defined by a cold and harsh quid-pro-quo, the awareness that prayer isn’t about getting something or demanding something catches people off guard.
In our contemporary Western world, we might wonder what’s the point of prayer if we aren’t going to get something out of it. Such thoughts only reveal the anorexic understanding we have come to accept about love and relationships.
If we concede and speak in terms of benefits, one of the first benefits of prayer is a relearning of love and a deeper dive into the value and meaning of true relationships.
The Catechism continues its teachings and makes the clear and abrupt statement that the dimensions of prayer are the “dimensions of Christ’s love.”
Prayer, therefore, cannot be reduced or minimalized to just getting what we want, or issuing a wish list to God, or asserting ultimatums to him. Prayer is an invitation to put our guards down, to suspend the expectations and demands of this world, to slow our pace, pause the stress and anxieties of life, rest, be at peace, and to be rejuvenated in the presence of the God who loves us.
The reality of prayer is so authentically human, and such a source of spiritual freshness and newness, that many are perhaps tempted to dismiss it as too good to be true. They falsely assume that there must be a catch, a twist, or some ulterior motive or deception.
Prayer, however, is all that it claims. There is no hidden agenda by God. There is no fraud or deceit. Prayer is truly the invitation of God to be in a living and vital relationship with him.
With that said, there will be moments of conversion in prayer. We will change our minds, see things from a different perspective, have our hearts transformed, and feel compelled to live our lives in a different way. Prayer will bring down idols. It will relativize things we thought divine. It will reorient our priorities and broaden our pluralities.
Prayer will lead us to encounter unconditional love and be converted by it. We will experience authentic love in all its depth and breadth. We will learn to love and feel compelled to share that love with others.
In these ways, we realize that we are the children of God. We are not orphans who are left to create our own worlds and meanings of life. We are the children of a loving Father, who wants to teach and guide us to understand the beauty of life, the meaning of goodness, and the power of love.
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