There are many who believe that God does not speak to us and that prayer is nothing more than an imaginary conversation with ourselves that makes us feel better about things. Such a belief may well be supported by the fact that many people who say they are praying are actually engaged in just such a delusion. Yet such explanations of prayer, as sophisticated as they appear, do not adequately account for what both great saints and repentant sinners discover in the silence of their hearts.
To be so pierced by the plight of another as to endure difficult sacrifices, to be moved to conversion of life despite pride and lack of confidence in God, to desire holiness even when mortally wounded by personal depravity, to acquire the capacity to forgive, to have compassion on those who have hurt us, to stand firm for the truth no matter the personal cost and to do good to one's enemies--these are not feats of self-sufficient human cleverness nor unaided psychological gymnastics. No matter how carefully concocted, no methods or techniques or programs of human invention transcend the limits set by our own broken instinct for self-preservation. Only the gravity of something beyond the frontiers of our own misery can help us go beyond the abysmal darkness that threatens us.
Prayer looks out into an even deeper abyss than that in which the light of created intelligence exhausts itself. Deeper than the abyss of our misery, prayer seeks an abyss of mercy. Against the tendency to grasp or to despair, prayer renders the heart vulnerable to the One who fashioned it.
Silent reflection pregnant with desire for God searches out that divine love that suffers misery to affirm each one's dignity. This contemplation attends to the only voice that can disclose the dignity of the children of God. Determined, bowed in contrition filled wonder, the tear drenched cries of such a heart reaches out to the Heart of Another.
Humble adoration falls prostrate before the Word who from the Cross called out into our silence. Such prayer catches the reverberation of this wordless cry as it echoes through the cosmos and through history. Such prayer alone can heed the new life spoken into the mystery that was to be our doom.
It is this same Word, the Word who is God, who speaks to us in prayer. The Word speaks love stronger than death and it never abandons us but is always at work, always present in new and astonishing ways. Constantly, He brings light into the darkness of our hearts and patiently invites us to make a new beginning even as all things seem to be coming to an end.
Always what is most beautiful about what He tells us is to be pondered more in what we do not understand than in what we think we have grasped. More ancient than human speech, earthly words do not circumscribe the ineffable hope this Eternal Word gives. Indeed, to obediently accept this Whisper from the lips of the Father is to possess the substance of hope itself.