This Sunday is Pentecost, the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus’ remaining post-Cross disciples. As it’s the Spirit that prays through us whenever we pray- as opposed to being our own action- it seems timely to reflect on prayer.
Perhaps the strongest evidence that the Church in the west has capitulated to Enlightenment-bound rationalism and its consequent skepticism is our reluctance to pray. Our neglect of prayer as a central and life-giving discipline reveals the extent to which many self-professed Christians are actually functional atheists. I realize that sounds harsh, but, at the very least, our reticence to pray reveals just how badly the Church has equipped contemporary disciples to practice the one and only thing the first disciples ever asked Jesus how to do.
I think prayer is the most difficult thing we do as Christians, especially given the secular, post-Christian culture in which we live.
Because to the naked eye, prayer is when Christians converse with someone who appears not to be there.
To the skeptic, to the unbeliever, prayer isn’t any different than the crazy guy at Starbucks who talks to himself over a cup of coffee (actually he’s sitting next to me at the bar right now). More so than anything else we do as Christians, prayer- every time we do it- is a blatant, uncompromising test of our faith. Are we willing to appear crazy for this God? Are we willing to be mocked? Are we willing to be written off as quaint or self-deluded?
Prayer challenges us to ante up when it comes to what we say we believe. Do we sufficiently believe in what we cannot see that we’re willing to speak, whisper and plead to what others will only say is not there.
After all, to most people- believers and non- prayer is a waste of time.
It is a waste of time.
Were it not a waste of time, there’d be little reason for us to pray for the god to whom we prayed would not be God, would not be Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Diito from Herbert McCabe:
“…For real absolute waste of time you have to go to prayer. I reckon that more than 80 percent of our reluctance to pray consists precisely in our dim recognition of this and our neurotic fear of wasting time, of spending part of our life in something that in the end gets you nowhere, something that is not merely non-productive, non-money-making, but is even non-creative, it doesn’t even have the justification of art and poetry.
It is an absolute waste of time, it is a sharing into the waste of time which is the interior life of the Godhead.
God is not in himself productive or creative. Sure he takes time to throw off a creation, to make something, to achieve something, but the real interior life of the Godhead is not in creation, it is in the life of love which is in the Trinity, the procession of Son from Father and of the Spirit from this exchange.
God is not first of all our creator or any kind of maker, he is love, and his life is not like the life of the worker or artist but of lovers wasting time with each other uselessly.
It is into this worthless activity that we enter in prayer. This, in the end, is what makes sense of it…”