Speaking to God

To round off my reflections on Fr. Dubay's Fire Within, I am going to provide some short reflections on the different ways we can pray and on the conditions for growth in prayer.

Today I am going to write about vocal prayer. I think most people understand vocal prayer the best, because amongst the types of prayer, it is the most similar to the way we normally communicate with other people. It is not uncommon to fall into the trap of believing that vocal prayer is the only type of prayer. Prayer is always communication with God, but in prayer the communication is accomplished primarily through communion. This means that we do more by bringing our heart to God than by saying anything. This is like in the Old Testament, especially in the pre-history in Genesis, whenever the marital embrace occurs (people having sex), it says "he knew his wife." We learn much more about a person by spending time with him than by reading about him, and this knowledge gained through communion is accomplished in a very special way in the marital embrace. Although, it is important to express your desires before God and to pour out your heart to Him every day, prayer is not primarily about what we can get God to do, but it is about how much we can allow God to do to us. God already knows more about you than you are even capable of telling Him. This does not mean that vocal prayer is not important, but it does mean that along with vocal prayer we should also seek God through reasoning and in the silence our hearts (by meditation and contemplation which will be the subjects of my next two posts).

We find very good direction on all vocal prayer in the quote that Fr. Dubay gives from St. Teresa of Avila on vocal prayer. "If a person does not think Whom he is addressing, and what he is asking for, and who it is that is asking and of Whom he is asking it, I do not consider that he is praying at all even though he be constantly moving his lips" (cf. Fire Within p.76). Whether or not we are saying anything does not determine whether or not we are making a vocal prayer. The desire that we express through our words is the prayer, and the vocalization (mental or physical) is the means by which we reach out to God to accomplish this desire.

I also think it is very important to bring ourselves as we are to God. We must bring ourselves before our king as the poor spiritual peasant we are, before Christ our brother as His dear friend, or before our Savior as someone who realizes that they have no way to repay the gift they have been given (and in any other way we can properly express our relationship with God). This does not mean we must create prayers that we think will express theological truths most beautifully, but it does mean that we must try to see God for who He is, see ourselves for what we are in this divine light, then express with our words what this reflection creates in our heart.

As a closing note I want to mention the prayers that have been handed down to us, especially the Our Father, and also other written prayers. These cannot be seen as meaningless with this new perspective on vocal prayer, because they express the deepest desires in our hearts, even though we do not always perceive this as a result of our fall from grace. Saying these prayers that express our deepest longings (we can be sure of this because of their scriptural origin or by the personal sanctity of the person who wrote them) can help us bring our own unruly desires into order. It is also noteworthy that a desire is not simply a feeling, but it is a disposition (a leaning) that is created by seeking something. For example, an NFL player creates the desire to win the Super Bowl by ordering his entire life to winning the Super Bowl. In the same way we, as Christians, by habitually expressing these written prayers and by ordering everything in our life toward God, dispose ourselves more to God. This helps all of our prayer become more sincere because it will thus express more clearly what we all really desire: God Himself.