‘Tis the season of prayer as we’re into the most hallowed part of the year, the Holy Week.
There is no arguing it: We can never underestimate the immense power of prayer. Having spent a considerable number of years in a seminary and almost completing a priestly formation, I can only reminisce, with nostalgic yearning, the spiritually awesome and uplifting prayer moments and exercises I have had.
Prayer, from my Catholic perspective, does not get its value on the quantity of words or repetition of formulas. Rather, as it is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God, its value lies principally on our inner attitude of faith and love of God.
Hence, regardless of what we are praying for, prayer—by itself—is a profound experience of transcendence, of connecting with the Divine.
But, are we trying to change God’s will in prayer? My quick answer is: No. Because it would be contrary to sound philosophy and biblical faith. “I, the Lord, do not change” (Mal. 3:6).
God has ordained that certain goods be granted only on the condition that we pray. But this does not mean that prayers changes God’s mind or will. St. Thomas Aquinas aptly taught us: “We pray not that we may change the divine disposition, but that we may ask that which God has disposed to be fulfilled by our prayers: in other words, ‘that by asking, men may deserve to receive what Almighty God from eternity has disposed to give’, as Gregory says” (Dial. i,8).
Most noble of means
In their book titled “Twenty Answers: Prayer,” authors Fr. Hugh Barbour and Fr. Sebastian Walshe contend that:
“A correct understanding of the nature of prayers teaches us that prayers does not change God’s will but accomplishes it. The only wills that are changed are those of the persons praying or being prayed for. Prayer is the most noble of the many created means whereby God accomplishes his will. In his wisdom and providence, he has determined that there are many things that will only be brought about by prayer. Prayer is thus an instrument of God’s supreme causality; that is, prayer is a way that God makes things happen with our COOPERATION (underscoring mine). When we pray and are encouraged to do so by God, it is with this awareness.”
That indeed prayer is our powerful armor, Barbour and Walshe verily affirm:
“Human beings are never so powerful and effective than when they pray. People read self-help books about being effective and successful, but the man of prayer has more power than these. Yet prayers also teaches us humility of heart, as we seek to conform our hearts to the heart of God. By praying we become once again like the ‘little children to whom the kingdom of heaven belongs’” (Mt. 19:14).
A prayerful Holy Week observance to one and all! Keeping you in my grateful and fervently praying heart.
Bob Acebedo writes a weekly column in OpinYon (http://opinyon.net).