It is a strange and wonderful thing how belief in God works. It is something that is really quite ineffable. Recently, there have a lot of stresses in my life. Stress is not good for me, especially for me heart. So I do what I can to lessen the stressors, but sometimes life throws things at you that are impossible to avoid. The past few days, weeks and even months have been like that for me.
When I feel great stress, or have great worries and concerns, I feel an instinctive need to deepen my prayer life. Prayer has always an important part of my daily life, but there are times, more often than I would like to admit, that I neglect this essential part of religious experience. As I have written before, I have a simple and favorite prayer: the Rosary. This traditional Catholic devotion, practiced for centuries, has always been a part of my prayer life. Without it I would be totally adrift with my spiritually. Although mostly associated with old ladies and nuns, monks or priests, the Rosary is a prayer that has a long, deep and rich history among common and everyday Catholics. It is both meditative and instructive. Its longevity over the centuries attests to its power. It is, for me, the most beautiful of all Catholic devotions.
What does prayer give you? Among the many benefits of prayer, rather than being simply a means of communicating with God, or a hope of some concrete change for improving your personal circumstances, prayer gives you the strength and ability to endure and even overcome all the various vicissitudes of life. I wonder why there are so many people of great faith who suffer such terrible things. This of course is one of the inexplicable mysteries of religious belief: if there is a God, then why do people suffer? There is no clear and easy answer to this question. We only have to think back on the Sandyhook shootings and of all the parents who lost children, many of whom I am sure are people of deep faith, people who were suddenly and irreparably confronted with a suffering and tragedy beyond comprehension. I am sure they pray too. I am sure they are close to God. And yet they suffer terrible things. And yet those with the deep prayer life, although their lives are tremendously damaged, will find the strength to endure their sufferings, and even find an eventual peace. Prayer has that sort of power. There are many things such as this that prayer gives us.
The miracle for me, when it comes to prayer, is how completely and powerfully it calms and soothes the soul. Once that calm and peace comes, then we can deal better with the stresses of life. Then, when we have this renewed confidence in dealing with our problems, we are better able to overcome them, and find victory in whatever small or large battles we may be fighting. And even if victory is not ours, at least initially, prayer gives us the ability to endure life until we do achieve victory. This is real. This is concrete. And for me, this is a clear reflection of the God’s guidance and presence in our lives and in our world. Prayer is communicating with the The Divine, with God, with the Power and Love and guides the entire universe. When we communicate with this Divine Power, with this Divine Love, we reap tremendous benefits. The benefits may not be immediate, or what we even expect, but the benefits will be there. God wants us to succeed in life, to be happy and prosperous, and contribute to building his kingdom on this earth, while at the same time preparing ourselves, and others, for his heavenly kingdom. Prayer is the indispensable help for us in all this.
There is a kind of beauty to prayer. There are many wonderful things about prayer, really, too many for me to write about in one little post, or in twenty volumes of weighty theological tomes. Most of all, in the end, it is simply the closeness I feel to God, the sense of being part of the magnificent complexity of the entire universe; that I, one small and insignificant speck of dust in this vast ocean of life, am still connected with the ultimate source and power of all our existence. I feel that as real as I feel the earth under my feet, the sun above my head, the wind against my skin. I often think of life as a journey, as a constant path along which we are walking, and prayer guides me along this path, especially during the dark and difficult days, and without prayer I could do nothing. As John Paul II often said, “Without prayer we can do nothing”.
Prayer is an act of love, love between God and ourselves, and love among each other.