ALL MY LIFE
I have tried to specify the heart of what prayer is. I've read countless books and spiritual authors and I have not been satisfied in my own heart and mind. I have prayed often, morning, noon, and night, and yet my question remains: what is the core of prayer to God?
I know all the elements of prayer: personal, liturgical, communal, penitential, praise, laudatory, petition, thanksgiving, worship, awe, humility, openness, the Spirit,
silence and nonverbal gratitude, and much more. But the question still remains: what does it mean to pray? Perhaps there really is no answer to this question since our prayer is so individual, so personal, and
intimate that it is impossible to really give a universal answer to what prayer is except that it is vital for the spiritual life. So vital in fact that without it, there is no real relationship with God. Perhaps we
can learn from Jesus who, when asked by the disciples how to pray, gave us the immortal "Our Father" with its themes of worship and petition.
"Our Father" is, of course, the object of our prayer: a complete surrender to the one to whom we pray, one who is the intimate Father. That gives us confidence, trust, and hope that the one to whom we pray is not an impersonal Almighty far from us, but one who loves us, in whom we can have full confidence and to whom we can give our full surrender in love. We can surrender to God because we are embraced and never alone. We are safe in our absolute surrender. This objective of prayer is unique in Christianity as Father, not as absolute potentate or Almighty whatever. His love is his mercy, and his mercy is his love, because that is who God is in his very being and substance. That is why we can say that God is unconditionallove because he is love; therefore he is Father in an intimate sense.
Praying to "our Father" makes our prayer comforting and full of assurance that we are loved, never abandoned; God is one with us in all that we do and are. We are never alone even if it seems so; we are in communion with him; we need only to surrender ourselves to him at any time, in any place, for any reason. Even when we abandon him, he never abandons us. How could he if he is love? This absolute setting of our prayer is that it is based on an intimate relationship and never one of fear. We are respectful, we are full of worship, but we worship God when we love God, love our neighbor, love ourselves. When we love, we worship that which makes Christianity absolutely unique in the history of religion: prayer and worship are intimately and absolutely related to love and are one and the same thing. Without love there can be no worship, no prayer in the Christian dispensation, no relationship, no communion, no unity, no nothing.