Thursday, March 21, 2013


In the film Harold and Maude, Harold, the young protégé in the art of living of the elder Maude, asks Maude if she prays. "Pray? No. I communicate," she tells him. While her response hints of a polemic on traditional prayer, it need not necessarily be viewed as such. Communication is an important part of this thing we call prayer.

You'll hear scores of definitions of prayer. Some are quite hackneyed, which is problematic since prayer, as an activity of the heart, needs to stay fresh.

Prayer, as much as anything else, is communication with the Almighty. Throughout our busy school and work days, we try to solve our problems. We think, we talk, we analyze, we schlep, we save our pennies, we endeavor to have some fun. Success varies. Sometimes, we think we have made it and then find, as David Bowie sang, "that the taste is not so sweet."

The maze of life on this earth can overwhelm our limited minds and muscle. And then there's prayer.

With prayer, we speak to something that is above the imbroglio we call life. Imagine being given the opportunity to take counsel with the wisest and purest soul that ever lived. I'm talking about the truest holy man or holy woman. And I'm talking even about a holy man or holy woman that knows your life story and your innermost yearnings, your strengths and weakness.

Such would be a fragment of what you get with a conversation with God.

One may demur here, saying, "What kind of conversation do you have when only one person speaks?"

Well, for starters, think of it this way, "How rare is a conversation where the other party listens?"

In prayer, God listens to everything you have to say. He'll listen for as long as you speak and he'll listen even after you stop. And he responds too. But his responses are not audible. They occur through your insights, your ideas, and the providence in your life.

This is not to say that every thought in a person's head is the voice of G-d. But in the sum total of life, He is there, helping us with truths and ideas. Many of these result from our prayers.

The Lord answers with life. He speaks in the language of life, your life. It’s a booming voice.

I can't say definitively why the Lord works it this way. Perhaps, his vocal silence is part and parcel of the general invisibility with which He runs the world, testing us, and forcing us to grow.

I work with two guys who are particularly diligent and talented. I have noticed that I often work harder when they are not around. I find it easier to let them carry the load.

Our Father in Heaven has devised a system whereby He can force us to work by appearing absent and yet be stunningly present and involved throughout our labors. It’s quite a trick, as are many things Divine.

Prayer forces us to think about our lives, our goals, and spiritual matters.

Prayer is like Rogerian therapy, client-centered therapy, where the client by speaking on his or her own, with the support of the therapist, learns how to emote and to solve problems on their very own two feet.

The prayer of our forefathers was spontaneous. Yet, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob each established a distinct, fixed time for prayer during the day and over the millennium their descendents (our ancestors) built a sizeable structure around them.  Some people enjoy this structure, some find frustration with it. Let’s discuss it a bit.

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