What is prayer?

People often ask me to pray for them, or for a family member or friend, or for some particular intention. I'm pleased to oblige.

Folks also often ask me why their prayers have not been answered - or why they have not been answered as they hoped, as they prayed they would be. It's in such a conversation that I try to share with them my understanding of prayer, although I think I often fail in helping others understand prayer as I do.

I was just reading a post by Fr. Bob Imbelli on dot.Commonweal in which he includes this quote from Ann and Barry Ulanov in their study, Primary Speech: a Psychology of Prayer, while commenting on Paul Ford's article in the Valyermo Chronicle.

The quote struck Bob and it strikes me, deeply. This is something of what I understand prayer to be. Yes, I believe we should pray for each other and for particular and individual worthy intentions, but most of all I believe prayer is something like what the Ulanov's describe here:
Prayer is the place where we sort out our desires and where we ourselves are sorted out by the desires we choose to follow …

Prayer enlarges our desire until it receives God’s desire for us. In prayer, we grow big enough to house God’s desire in us which is the Holy Spirit.
Prayer is a place to simply sit with and before God and in God's company to "sort out our desires" and find ourselves sorted out "by the desires we choose to follow." It is much more just such a place than it is a place for turning in to the Almighty our earnestly composed wish lists.

I'm not saying I'm altogether successful in finding that "place" the Ulanvov's describe but I have a more than pretty good hunch that such a place is precisely where my deepest prayers will truly be answered.

-Image source: JourneyToRome

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1 comment:

  1. "Prayer is the place where we sort out our desires and where we ourselves are sorted out by the desires we choose to follow..."

    I like this very much and am relieved and comforted to read this-

    A lot of times I don't even know what my desires really are- at least the big, important ones- and what they are supposed to be-

    So I guess what I am trying to do and what I hope prayer can do is help me sort out myself and figure out what I am supposed to do-


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