Love in Prayer

Prayer is the language of Love.
As a dear friend of mine has shared,
"Prayer is friendship with God."

I recently picked up a book from my bookshelf.
This particular book I bought 6 years ago.
Three years ago, I tried to begin and didn't get far.
I didn't quite understand the words connecting into sentences
and the sentences forming cohesive paragraphs,
and the cohesive paragraphs describing a form of prayer.
I kept dozing off.

A couple of weeks ago, I came across it again,
and to my surprise, all of a sudden, I could understand.
I saw and not only did I see,
I somehow got it.

Like I had somehow, along the way, learned a language
I didn't know I was learning.

So this week, I share
a brief excerpt from the first chapter
that I particularly liked.


P.S. I am unsure how the author (Balthasar) is using the masculine pronoun.  This was originally published in 1955 in Switzerland.  Feel free to substitute a feminine pronoun or think of "man" as universally representing "humankind".



MOST CHRISTIANS are convinced that prayer is more than the outward performance of an obligation, in which we tell God things he already knows.  It is more than a kind of daily waiting attendance on the exalted Sovereign who receives his subjects' homage morning and evening.  And although many Christians experience in pain and regret that their prayer gets no further than this lowly stage, they are sure, nonetheless, that there should be more to it.  In this field there lies a hidden treasure, if only I could find it and dig it up.  This seed has the power to become a mighty tree bearing blossoms and fruit, if only I would plant and tend it.  This hard and distasteful duty would yield the freest and most blessed kind of life, if only I could open and surrender myself to it.  Christians know this, or at least they have an obscure intimation of it on the basis of prior experiences of one kind or another, but they have never dared to follow these beckoning paths and enter the land of promise.  The birds of the air have eaten up the sown word, the thorns of everyday life have choked it; all that remains of it is a vague regret in the soul.  And if, at particular times throughout life, they feel an urgent need for a relationship with God which is different from the incessant repetition of set prayers, they feel clumsy and lacking in ability, as if they had to speak in a language without having mastered its grammar.  Instead of fluent conversation they can only manage a few, halting, scraps of the heavenly idiom.  Like a stranger in a foreign land, unacquainted with the language, they are almost inarticulate children once again, wanting to say something but unable to do so.

This example could be misunderstood, for we do not 'make conversation' with God.  Yet there are two respects in which it does apply:  firstly, prayer is a conversation between God and the soul, and secondly, a particular language is spoken: God's language.  Prayer is dialogue, not man's monologue before God.  Ultimately, in any case, there is no such thing as solitary speech; speech implies reciprocity, the exchange of thoughts and of souls, unity in a common spirit, in a common possession and sharing of the truth.  Speech both demands and manifests an I and a Thou.  In prayer, moreover, man speaks to a God who has long since revealed Himself to him in a Word which is so stupendous and all-embracing that it can never be 'past tense': this Word resounds through all times as a present reality.  The better a man learns to pray, the more deeply he finds that all his stammering is only an answer to God's speaking to him; this in turn implies that any understanding between God and man must be on the basis of God's language.  It was God who spoke first, and it is only because God has expressed, 'exteriorized', Himself in this way that man can 'interiorize' himself toward God...For we have been permitted to glimpse his inner nature, to enter into it, into the inner core of eternal truth; bathed in this light which radiates upon us from God, we ourselves become light and transparent before him.

--An excerpt of chapter one in Prayer by Hans Urs von Balthasar (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), pp 14-15.