By Tom Neal, PhD
The Catechism’s 4th section on Prayer is a treasury of practical wisdom drawn from the 4000 year old Jewish-Christian tradition. It was added to the original three-part catechism to highlight the importance of bringing the truths of faith found in parts I, II, and III into ‘a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God.’ In other words, making sure one’s Catholic faith is rooted and grounded in divine love.
Let me offer just a morsel to whet your appetite.
Are you listening, O God?
Paragraph 2737 offers a fresh insight into the struggle people of prayer can have when their fervent petitions seem to be met with silence or divine inaction:
God wills that our desire should be exercised in prayer, that we may be able to receive what he is prepared to give.
It’s a simple, but not easy, insight. When we petition God for good things, as we must do, we should not think of the primary ‘goal’ of such prayer as simply ‘getting the good we ask for.’ According to 2737, petitioning God exercises, stretches our desire. Our desire for what? For what ‘he is prepared to give.’ What is God prepared to give?
We could say that what God is prepared to give is that which is best, the greatest good for us and our salvation, and that which will supremely glorify him. So when we petition at length, our desire stretches to embrace what God alone knows and wills as the supreme good. Jesus himself stretched his human desire thus in the Garden of Gethsemane and on Golgotha: ‘…take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.’
And when he drank that cup, all creation was redeemed.
But above all, what the painful stretch of waiting in patience on God’s answer to our petitions effects in us is to make us capax Dei, ‘capable of God.’ In other words, what God wishes to give us is himself, and in order to receive him and enter into a union of love with him (life’s supreme goal!) we must receive God as God; we must become a consent to his will; a fiat; a sustained yes that allows us to be God-with-us, a continuation of the Incarnation.
Any other approach to prayer is idolatry, for we are seeking a god other than God.
So next time you passionately seek good things for yourself, and for others, remember as you wait that the time elapsing is absolutely not a waste, but rather is the essential point of the prayer. During that time of waiting, see in faith the renovation project the divine Artisan is working in you, to make of you a fresh Paradise where God can again stroll with us in the soft evening breeze.