Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Prayer is Practical

The past couple of weeks have brought the chaos and danger of Iraq and Syria out of the headlines and frighteningly close to the daily lives of "First World" people like me.

As much as I might try to empathize with suffering throughout the whole world, I can't help feeling viscerally close to the sudden violent disruption of environments that are familiar to me, like airplanes and cafes and concert halls. The range of emotion is difficult to grapple with.

I don't know what to do with all of this experience of being overwhelmed and bewildered, this sudden reminder of the fragility of life, of the fact that events are beyond my control.

When I feel most helpless, I tend to think, "All I can do is pray." In fact, it is in these moments that I draw more closely to the truth of who I am.

Recent events have recalled me to the need for prayer.

I'm not talking about a sentimental or pious cop out, or an attempt to evade the real issues and find comfort in a spiritualistic escapism.

The real issue is always prayer. Life is prayer. I'm talking about the vital relationship with the One who has created me, who sustains me, who calls me to enter into His own Mystery.

The Mystery wants me to know Him. He became flesh so that He could share my life and draw me into the fulfillment of His eternal life. The Mystery who gives meaning to my life became human; He became a man, this man named Jesus.

That makes prayer very practical.

Jesus is real. We can't ever forget that. He is the center of history, really. He is not an abstraction or a theory inside a system. He is a Person whom we encounter. Prayer is seeking Him, remembering Him, hanging onto Him, learning to recognize Him and love Him.

Seriously. If Jesus is not a real flesh-and-blood man who is here-and-now supremely engaged in my life, then "Christianity" is a waste of time. 

But He is real. And the desire to see reality in Him, to see my life and all its circumstances as constituted by this relationship with Him and His Spirit and His Father, is the heart and the substance of prayer.

So it's okay to be confronted by an open reminder that this relationship of prayer, of belonging to Him, is the only "real life" we have. Desperate circumstances can wake us up to the recognition that we are not the masters of life, and that no level of technological power will confer this mastery upon us.
Mark Rupnik, mosaic detail.

It is good to remember that we are not the source of reality nor the power that determines it. We are given a role to play, a task in history, and we must do our best to work at that task and bring it to fruition. But at the heart of this task is the surrender of everything to the One who shapes and fulfills all things in His wisdom.

There are so many things that we don't understand and cannot control.

Do we trust in the One who makes us and holds us and calls us? There is darkness on the path, and this brings pain, anguish, feelings of confusion. We are scared.

Should we begin running in all directions? What do we hope to find in this darkness?

Let us turn to that supremely practical endeavor. Let us pray. Let us bring the desire and the searching, the anguish and fear, the questions and the judgments that need to be made, to Him.

He is real. And we have seen His face. It is the face of Love. We have been loved. Let us never be discouraged.