He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. - Aeschylus

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Love it to Death: The Power of Prayer

When I was a child, I believed in the power of prayer.  I hoped and believed that God would grant me the things I prayed for, even when those things were entirely selfish and trivial, because like children in general I was quite self-centered.  Sometimes those childish wishes would come true, and I believed that this was the power of prayer, this ability to ask and to receive whatever I wished from the giver of all good things.

Naturally, I was sometimes frustrated because not everything I wished for was given, because the giver of all good things seemed to not always agree with me on what was good for me.  Especially in those moments when I was hurting deeply and I prayed for a miracle that never arrived, I was disappointed in the lack of what I understood as the power of prayer.  And when someone I loved was hurting and I prayed for a miracle to save them which never appeared, I had an increasingly hard time believing in the power of prayer.

This is of course not to say that miracles never appeared; sometimes miracles did happen and they were wondrous, but it was clear that I was not able to harness the power of prayer, that I did not hold the reins of the gift horse no matter how often I looked it in the mouth.  It occurred to me that prayer might not have any power, that what graces were given were completely unrelated to any petitions I might make to the giver of grace, that the rain of grace falls upon the just and the unjust alike.

It did not occur to me at the time that the power of prayer might be something quite different from what I imagined it to be, that the power of prayer might be less often found in the changing of our circumstances and more often found in the changing of our hearts.  I have since learned that the power of prayer is even greater than I believed it to be, that I was too timid in my belief in the power of prayer.

I had restricted myself to the belief that the power of prayer was for changing my external situation; it turns out that the power of prayer was to a greater degree for the radical transformation of my will, my intellect, my heart, and my body in the light of divine love.  The power of prayer is the power to reshape our entire being so that we become a reflection of that light of divine love, a mirror which always shows the love of God to all who look into it, a window into the divine household of love in Heaven.

In prayer, we develop a habit of using our will to will the good of the other, providing a valuable balance to our natural tendency to will all that we believe is good for us.  In prayer, we build a habit of directing our intellect to perceive the font of love in a spirit of constant gratitude, providing a valuable corrective to our tendency to focus on our problems and ascribe fault for them to the hate of others.

In prayer, we move our body into a position of humility, habituating ourselves to the act of lowering ourselves so that we can serve others, providing a valuable balance to the immense weight of our instinctive self-serving behaviors.  In prayer, we create a habit of holding in our heart as much love as we can stand for all those we love as we pray for them, gradually strengthening our hearts so that they can hold more love for others more often.

It is in this praying from the heart, with the intellect, and with the body directed by the will toward uniting the soul with Christ that we reform our lives in the shape of Christ's life by the way of the good habits given to us by His Bride after His death and resurrection.  This is the incredible power of prayer, that by it we can gradually become more Christ-like, turning our hearts of stone into hearts for love alone by the grace of Him who gives us all good things.

We are given the power of prayer so that we can unite ourselves to Him in this life and in eternal life in the divine household with the Communion of Saints.  We are given the power of prayer so that we can use the habits prescribed by the divine Physician to separate ourselves from all that separates us from divine love, amputating the parts of our lives which cannot partake of divine love.  We are given the power of prayer so that our lives can gradually become suffused by the fullness of prayer, a constant song of praise and thanksgiving to the one who gives us life itself and offers us life yet more abundantly if we but live with Him.

We are given the power of prayer so that we can love to death the pride which leads us to be ungrateful to the giver of all good things because we do not have power over Him, the pride which keeps us from accepting the best gift of all, the gift of adoption into the divine family which is itself an expression of the extravagance of Love.

The power of prayer is a gift of love which empowers us to accept with gratitude that our entire being and the whole of creation are the endless gifts of love.

No comments:

Post a Comment