For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13)
The Word of God is vibrant, life-giving, revealing what is true and good thus enlightening us on our way. While we understand the Word of God to be Jesus Christ, we also know that the Scriptures bear witness to Christ and thus are able to help guide us in life. They should shape our prayer life – what prayers we offer and the things for which we pray.
Roman Catholic scholar Louis Bouyer notes how this wisdom is abundantly obvious even in the teachings of Jewish rabbis from the time of Christ:
But while the Rabbis multiply warnings and counsels in order that prayer may become the most personalized act possible, they are no less watchful to keep it from any sort of individualism. Collective prayer, in the midst of God’s people assembled for that purpose, must be prepared for by personal prayer and meditation. But it is always and everywhere in union with the people that the faithful individual must pray, and it is in his heart’s adhesion to the traditional expressions of collective, liturgical prayer that his prayer is to find its rule.
Without this, they say, man would tend to ask for what his selfish impulses suggest to him. He would bless God only in a perspective that focuses on his own self-interest, and he would ask God for his own satisfaction. In contrast to this, in adhering to the prayer of the faithful people, he will come to ask nothing which is not the sole accomplishment of God’s will, and to praise God no longer for what touches him personally but for the fulfilment of His Plan alone.” (EUCHARIST, p 55)
We learn to pray through liturgical prayers and in our liturgical assemblies for this is also where we listen to the Word of God collectively with the entire community. As Bouyer points out without the influence of communal, liturgical prayer, we will only pray selfishly for our own personal interests rather than for seeking God’s will. We would bless God only to the extent that God serves our personal desires. Prayer puts us in communion with God so that we can learn God’s will, rather than making God the janitor or maid or Santa in our lives. In the community, in liturgy and through Scriptures understood collectively, we learn about God’s role in the world, and that God’s will is for the good of the entire cosmos, not just for my personal convenience.