Tuesday, October 02, 2012
Prayers Becoming Prayer
Treat the words of the prayers you say so as to make them part of your emotions and bring them all of the intensity of your personal life. But if the words we use in prayer are not made real by the way we live, they will be meaningless and lead to nowhere. They will be like a bow without a string. It is absolutely pointless to ask God for something that we ourselves are not prepared to do. If we say, "O God make me free from every temptation," while at the same time seeking every possible way of falling into temptation, hoping now that God is in control, that He will get us out of it, then we do not stand a chance. God gives us strength, but we must use it.
Paraphrased from Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, Beginning to Pray
Metropolitan Anthony Bloom points out two very important aspects of life-giving prayer. The first is that we must make the words of the prayers into the words of our prayer. We must bring the words into ourselves, into our emotions and feelings. We must fill the words with meaning from within ourselves, our personal experience. There is an interaction between the meaning of the words, their denotations and connotations, and our own experience. This interaction makes the words of the prayers given by the Church, our own prayer.
The second aspect of life-giving prayer is engagement in real life. That is, when we treat God as a distant God who pull strings behind the scenes, without our cooperation, effort, will and determination, then it may be that our prayer life is not much different from a fantasy life. No wonder people abandon prayer--if their prayer life is not intimately engaged with, if it is not born out of, their real life.
Learning to pray is not unlike learning to read. It takes practice and it takes engagement. When we personally engage the prayers we are given and live a life of repentance, of actual striving to acquire virtue (striving to enter the rest, as it says in Hebrews), then prayers can become our prayer.