Sunday, August 19, 2007

Some practical notes on prayer

Prayer, Richard Foster teaches, consists of three movements. These movements correspond to the three persons of the Trinity. The first movement is inward. This movement "is prayer to God the Son, Jesus Christ, which corresponds to his role as Savior and Teacher among us." The next movement is upward, or "prayer to God the Father, which corresponds to his role as sovereign King and eternal Lover among us." Finally, we move outward, which "is prayer to God the Holy Spirit, which corresponds to his role as Empowerer and Evangelist among us." We must move inward first, according to Foster, "simply because God has revealed himself to us most fully and clearly in Jesus Christ" (Prayer, pg XII). So, we start from what we know. That is why reading the Gospels is so very vital to Christian spirituality.

It is always necessary to clarify our language about God. If prayer is a relationship we must seek to know and know about the One with whom we seek to communicate. This brings up the delicate matter of using masculine personal pronouns to refer to God qua God (i.e., God the Father and God the Holy Spirit). This is standard usage and also reflects Jesus' Abba relation with God, a relationship which, through Christ, we are also invited to enter into. Nonetheless, this reveals a limitation of our language. We must keep in mind that "God incorporates and transcends our categories of [gender]- that is, God is not a male deity as opposed to a female deity" (pg. XI). For Catholics this is nothing surprising or shocking (Foster is a Quaker). It is orthodox because it is scriptural. In the first chapter of Genesis, verse twenty-six, we read: "So God created humankind [Hebrew adam] in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them" (NRSV). The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that "In no way is God in man's image. He is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the difference between the sexes. But the respective 'perfections' of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother and those of a father and husband" (par. 370).

"The movement inward comes first because without interior transformation the movement up into God's glory would overwhelm us and the movement out into ministry would destroy us" (Prayer, pg. 6).

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for maintaining this blog. I almost always find something new to consider. These notes on prayer are no exception.


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