Why We Can Pray

In today’s Gospel[1] we witness the reactions of Jesus’ disciples to His bread of life discourse; and in the first reading[2] we see Joshua meeting with the leadership of the tribes to discuss their allegiances – in both we see the people in dialog.  We see community interaction with each other and with their God. Prayer can be described as the communication of the faithful to He whom they have faith.  There are two basic types – personal and corporate. Personal prayer is just what it is called. With the corporate prayer we see community at work together.

Corporate prayer can be grouped into two broad classes: liturgical and non-liturgical. Liturgical prayer takes two forms – the Holy Mass is, of course, the highest.  It is the source and summit of our faith. Indeed our very existence on this journey needs to revolve around it because it is Jesus Himself. It is His action on Calvary, His sacrifice to the Father in which we too can offer our sacrifices as well. And of course His great gift of Himself to us in the Eucharist where we can be nourished and strengthened on our pilgrimage.

The other type of liturgical prayer is what we are participating in right now – the Liturgy of the Hours.  For the next few weeks, or so, I would like to delve into this great gift that also helps us in our journey; and not only us our actions in this liturgical prayer help the whole Universal Church, and the whole universe for that matter.

But maybe the best way to start reflecting on the Liturgy of the Hours is to reflect on a fundamental aspect of prayer. Why we can even pray to begin with? St. Josemaría Escrivá wrote: ‘The prayer of a Christian is never a monologue.[3] Prayer is not a one way action, it is dialog.  If there is no dialog then there is no relationship, at least a healthy relationship.  Prayer is the communication of a healthy relationship.  But still, how are we even able to enter into this dialogue with God?

Because God desires it and initiated it. There is no other way; if God didn’t want to communicate with us then we would be just ‘howling at the moon’ so to speak. But to our great joy – He desires it. And even more foundational, it is in His very nature to communicate. Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in his book the Feast of Faith: ‘The basic reason why man can speak with God arises from the fact that God himself is speech, Word.[4] This should be obvious when we consider that God is a triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three persons in one God.  Within God there is dialog, the dialog of love.  The Son Himself is the eternal logos, the Word, and when He came among us He enable us to enter into an even more intimate dialog than mankind had prior to His incarnation because He embraced human speech and ‘made it a component of divine speech’.[5] In addition, with the indwelling of His Holy Spirit we are brought into an even more intimate participation of the divine dialog. St. Paul tells us this in his letter to the Romans: ‘the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.[6]

Brothers and sisters, let’s always remember that God has given us a great gift in being able to enter into dialog with Him, but even greater we have been given the ability to enter into His own divine dialog – we are an intimate part of His family and as family we are heard, our feelings and words are desired and cherished. For our part, we need to become active participants in this family discussion.

———————————————————————————————–

[1] JN 6:60-69
[2] JOS 24:1-2A, 15-17, 18B
[3] St. Josemaría Escrivá – The Way #114
[4] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger – The Feast of Faith (pgs 25-26)
[5] ibid
[6] Romans 8:26 (RSV)

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