This is the 40th blog in a series exploring various aspects of “prayer.” The first blog is “Why Pray?” and the previous blog is Prayer as Prayer as Relationship with God (IV).
It is Christ who made prayer to the Father the means to communion with Him. It is our union with Christ that brings this salvation – the union of God to humanity – to each of us personally. Our prayers are thus not to some vague and distant deity, but rather to the God who is immanent to our souls and hearts. We do not hope that “the Force” may be with us, but we seek a relationship with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Three Persons of the Godhead. We enter into a personal relationship with God, which means we always encounter the Father or the Son or the Holy Spirit when we have any encounter with God. There is no such thing as an amorphous divinity which empowers us. God is personal and a someone that we encounter.
“However much we say on prayer, it still remains in ultimate need of experience. In its reality, prayer is the experience of being in God’s presence. Outside God’s presence there is no prayer. The right to enter into God’s presence, we have learned, was gained when Christ opened the way. It was consecrated on the day he was crucified and inaugurated the day he rose and ascended. He introduced a new and living way through his body, the temple curtain separating from man what belongs to God. It was torn open by God’s hand. The tear proceeded from the top, which is God’s dwelling, to the bottom, where we reside. Having previously been hidden in the Father, eternal life rushed into our being and appeared within us.” (Abba Isaac in Orthodox Prayer Life, pgs. 128)
Over and over we have seen in the sayings reproduced in this blog series that we are too seek God, not just what God can give us. St. Augustine says:
“’I sought the Lord and he heard me.’ [Ps 34:4] If someone has not been heard it means he has not sought the Lord.
Pay particular attention to this point. The Psalm does not say: ‘I asked the Lord for riches and he heard me. I asked for a long life and he heard me. I begged for this or that and he heard me.’ Seeking to obtain something from the Lord does not mean seeking the Lord himself. ‘I sought the Lord and he heard me.’
You yourself, when you pray, what do you say to him?
Maybe you request him to remove so-and-so whom you detest form the world! If so you are not seeking the Lord by setting yourself up as judge of your enemy and demanding that God should execute your sentence. Are you sure the person whose death you are requesting is not better than you? In this, at least, he is probably better than you: he can plead that he is not praying for your death.
When you turn to God, do not seek some favor from him. Seek the Lord himself and he will hear you.” (in DRINKING FROM THE HIDDEN FOUNTAIN, p 368-369)
If we want God to hear our prayer, we have to seek Him, not just seek what He can give us or what He can do for us, but actually seek a relationship with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Experiencing miracles is nothing compared with uniting ourselves to Christ, the incarnate God. Magical power is a vapid and vacuous experience compared to having the Holy Spirit abide in us.
“For the ascetic, prayer was not merely the speaking of words. It was the heart yearning for God, reaching out in hopeful openness to being touched by God. Prayer was the Holy Spirit breathing through the inner spirit of the ascetic and returning to God with yearnings for intimacy.” (Laura Swan, THE FORGOTTEN DESERT MOTHERS, p 27)
We can breathe the Holy Spirit. That is what it means to be inspired.
Ultimately, the question is why settle for some things that God can give us, when God offers Himself to us? We are taught to seek first God, and then His gifts will be ours as well.
Yet, it perhaps sadly true that we prefer the gifts to the Giver because the gifts will be ours to do with as we please, while if we have the Giver, we will have to submit to His Holy Will and to recognize Him as King and Lord.