The Posture of Prayer

By Sanchez, Patricia Datchuck | National Catholic Reporter, May 9, 2014 | Go to article overview

The Posture of Prayer


Sanchez, Patricia Datchuck, National Catholic Reporter


Prayer is the motif that pervades the sacred texts today.

In the first reading from Acts, Luke offers us a glimpse of the nascent church after the ascension of Jesus. Having retreated to the upper room, the Eleven, along with Mary and some other women, "devoted themselves with one accord to prayer- Before formulating a missionary strategy, before recruiting others to help them in their ministry, before determining how best to deflect the threat of Roman and Jewish opposition - before all else, they prayed.

In today's Gospel, the Johannine Jesus is featured praying what has been called his High Priestly Prayer for himself as well as those whom God had given him as disciples. Jesus could have formulated a plan of action for his disciples or provided them with a list of helpful hints on how to conduct themselves. Instead, Jesus prayed. He stood before God with open hands and an open heart, and asked for God's tender care and compassion for those he loved. In so doing, Jesus taught his followers that the primary posture of a believer before God is one of prayer. Before any plans are made, before any agenda is set, before all else, those who continue the ministry of Jesus are to pray. This means that we consciously decide to live in the presence of God.

As Henri Nouwen has noted, some consider prayer a weakness, or a support system that we use when there seems to be no other option (The Only Necessary Thing, Crossroad Pub., 1999). But this is only true when the God of our prayers is created in our own image and adapted to our needs and concerns. However, when prayer is authentic and God-centered, it enables us to reach out to God and to be pulled away from self-preoccupations. True prayer encourages us to leave familiar ground so as to enter into a new world beyond the confines of our mind or heart.

Not an exercise to be limited to Sunday mornings or to a set period of time each day, praying, insisted Nouwen, is living (With Open Hands, Ave Maria Press, 1972). It is eating and drinking, action and rest, teaching and learning, playing and working. Pervading every aspect of our existence, prayer is the ever-evolving recognition that God is! God is wherever we are, always reaching out, always drawing us near, ever revealing an unending love for us.

When Charles H. …

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