|Praying in Greek Church, Monparnasse Theodoros Rallis 1876|
It seems odd that this would happen to me, given the importance of prayer in the life of a Christian. Nonetheless, I realised recently that I had quite forgotten how to pray - how to properly pray to God.
How does this happen to a person? Did I ever know how to pray? Why is prayer so hard and why, after all these years of being a Christian, am I still just not getting it?
I recently listened once again to the audio version of Metropolitan Anthony Bloom's book Beginning to Pray. As I did so, I came to understand a little better what prayer properly is.
Prayer is meeting with God in the inner room, that room that is within each of us, where our true self resides. For Christ did say that "the kingdom of God is within [us]" (Luke 17:21). It is through prayer that we enter the inner room and meet God there. In doing so we bring ourselves to Him, our loved ones to Him, our enemies to Him, our troubles, burdens, fears and yes also our joys and thanksgiving. As we lay aside each earthly care, we are able to draw closer and closer into communion with God until all that is left is peace and the only prayer that remains is silence - the silence that comes from absolute trust in God's perfect love, from not desiring anything but to be with God.
I am far from there yet. I am still in the fear and trembling phase of my approach toward God. I find His presence overwhelming. Sometimes entering into prayer is like jumping into an ice-cold lake that is deep and dark and frightening. I usually find myself glued to the edge of the metaphorical dock, hesitant to allow the sharp sensation of entering into infinite love to take me.
Far too often I find myself standing on the outside of the room, with one hand held tentatively over the knocker. I hesitate because prayer requires a lot of me. It is work, hard work. My dear bishop told me that when I don't pray, it's because I don't want to pray. He is right. To pray we must take up our cross, we must choose to do hard work.
Lord have mercy on me! Lord, teach me to pray!
And so from the outset prayer is really our humble assent towards God, a moment when we turn God-wards, shy of coming near, knowing that if we meet Him too soon, before His grace has had time to help us to be capable of meeting Him, it will be judgement and all we can do is turn to Him with all the reverence, all the veneration, the worshipful adoration, the fear of God of which we are capable, with all the attention and earnestness which we may possess and ask him to do something with us that will make us capable of meeting Him face to face not for judgement not for condemnation, but for eternal life.
Metropolitan Anthony Bloom
|Praying woman. Catacomb of Calixtus, Rome, early 4th c.|