February 16, 2012

Heaven in Faith Series Continues - Prayer and the Mystery of Our Faith

Christian prayer has a divine quality to it. It is not just an activity rooted in the exercise of my own psychological powers. This prayer is directed to something beyond all the natural capacities of my soul. It is animated by a deeper more vital principle. Indeed, my faculties are naturally limited by time and space. Christian prayer explodes out of heaven into our lives, imbues our weakened nature with the supernatural, and constantly pierces through this dying cosmos to a new birth, an eternal reality beginning to unfold.


Such prayer is something new. Whole societies can be transformed by it but no politics can contain or manipulate it. The foolishness of this prayer outwits human cleverness. Such prayer is caused by something that stands outside and above the broken cycles, power struggles, agendas and programs of this aging tired old world.

Someone above our nature evokes a new cry of the heart and infuses us with a new recognition in the midst of joy and sorrow. In this Someone we see all that is good, beautiful, noble and true about what it means to be human - only in Him, these things are not subject to death. In Him, these things cannot be compromised. In Him, prayer finds the substance of hope.

Christian prayer is the prayer of the Risen Lord moving in the hearts of those who cling to Him by faith. To pray in Christ is to have Christ pray in us. He does this through the Gift of the Holy Spirit. To live in Christ is to allow the Holy Spirit to animate the whole of our lives so that we live in Christ, the very life of Christ, a life no longer subject to sin and death even in the face of our own failures and weaknesses. It was so that we might receive this gift that He suffered death and raised our humanity with Him into heaven. He yearns for us to live in this new humanity, to believe in it, to cling to it -- not in some future afterlife -- but right now, in the present moment. Prayer accesses this new life, connects us to the Heavenly Man, and opens into the Heart of Christ. What does this love imbued prayer mean practically?

In the face of our new humanity, we must let go of all kinds of dehumanizing fantasies and dreams. Confronted with the Heart of God, we must renounce all kinds of pleasures, comforts, satisfactions and preferences not worthy of the sons and daughters of God. Furthermore, with great trust, we must choose what we do not understand and trust in divine action accomplishing what we cannot imagine. For God is more than what we can grasp and his work surpasses anything we can envision. When it seems most senseless to do so, we must persevere in love for love -- always believing in his love to the point of being consumed by it. Here when it is most painful, we must render ourselves vulnerable before God, as vulnerable as a crucified man.

Guided by loving devotion and soaked with tears, Christian prayer learns the last cry of Jesus from the Cross. If in such prayer one breaths his last -- then by this same prayer, one will be raised up. Behold the humble prayer which gives God space to make all things new: his glory has already begun to shine here and now, in the midst of trials and persecution, hardships and sacrifices -- for we cannot begin to pray except when we realize our weakness, we cannot begin to love except at our own expense.

Elisabeth of the Trinity helps us see this mystery of prayer.  Here are Part 5 and Part 6 of our series.