Quite often I have been asked a question from different people of varied backgrounds and age. The question, “where could I be at peace to spend ‘quality time’ in prayer?” Whether or not someone is working or is a homemaker. Whether for a child coming of age or a scholar pursuing academic excellence, in the pursuit of God, prayer becomes an inevitable trajectory. In a simpleton’s understanding, prayer is ‘spending time with God’. In a spiritual master’s exegesis, prayer becomes ‘the soul’s elevation into the life of the Divine’. In either case prayer establishes itself in the very purpose of human existence.
Pope St. John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae exalts human life by drawing reference to the sacred dignity it has been endowed with. “Man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God.” This fullness of life stems out of Life Himself. Christ in John 14:6 embodied this truth by His word, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” and as the living person in the Holy Trinity negates every other route of ‘approaching The Father except through Him’.
As the Son of Man when He walked the length and breadth of his homeland, His immaculate thoughts, words and deeds were a fulfilment of His Father’s holy purpose and heart’s foremost desire, the redemption of all of mankind and creation. And the Messiah preluded all of it with the sanctification by prayer. Prayer was not a special ingredient needed for an extraordinary chore or miracle for the Anointed One, rather it was and is His very nature. His image and likeness which was promised, assured and given to us at the moment of our creation (Genesis 1:27). He prayed always (Luke 3:21, Mark 6:46, Luke 5:16, Matthew 26:42) and scripture presses us to do the same (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
The struggle today is not about where to pray. The actual battle is whether or not there is any relevance to prayer. The wise say that the people of God are now witnessing the time of the early Christians. A time of public hostility and ghastly persecution of Christians in almost every part of the world. Persecution not necessarily always of the body, but of belief, ideas, faith, convictions, truth and way of life. Andrew Brian McGowan an Australian Anglican scholar of early Christianity in chapter on prayer by early Christians says, “they stopped even in their daily routine to pray…” In his section on Jewish origins, McGowan emphasises again ‘that “worship” was all of life and that prayers was not restricted to what happened when Christians gathered together for “worship.” Prayer was part of life. The Jewish approach to prayer involved morning and evening prayers (of the Shema, perhaps the Amidah) and mid-afternoon prayer (evoking the afternoon sacrifice). Jewish Christians inherited this prayer practice. E.g., Acts 2:42; 10:30.’
If prayer was for them the fulcrum that balanced the weight between fatal persecution and faithfulness to Jesus the saviour of the world, how much more should it be to us who yearn to be His disciples in whichever measure.
Prayer unites us with the presence of God. Prayer is the mystical invitation for us from God Himself ‘to be consumed in the pleasure of His intimacy’. The Person of God one in communion with the person of man. Prayer is the personal dialogue between sin and the Holy of Holies. Prayer is the human heart lovingly nourishing the human soul with the precise and wholesome nourishment. Therefore, at the moment of prayer, man suddenly finds himself in the presence of the creator of heaven and earth. The God of powers and dominions but also of human creatures. The moment of prayer, hence, is now suddenly a moment of sanctity. The place of prayer, wherever it may be, so-much-so even the bath place, becomes the sanctum sanctorum. For the one who cries out his anguish of suffering or for the one who is on his knees begging for mercy of grace, for the one who’s soul rejoices in thanksgiving, or for the one who is wrestling the purpose if his life, prayer becomes his moment into eternity within time and space. Even for the one who knows not how to pray, The Lord hears volumes spoken by the spirit of such a desolate man (Romans 8:26-27). Let us always therefore pray with faith like that of job who exclaimed, “Thou shall make thy prayer unto Him, and He shall hear thee” (Job 22:27).