Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Sunday, March 02, 2014

Praying the Truth

The latest book I'm reading is Praying the Truth: Deepening Your Friendship with God through Honest Prayer by Jesuit spiritual director, William Barry. Here's the blurb from the Amazon page ...

We don't question our desire to be open with our close friends about our feelings, even if those feelings are difficult to express. We recognize that being honest with our loved ones will only deepen our bonds and help us feel peace in being able to express our innermost thoughts. Why then is it so challenging for us to come as we are, however we are, when approaching God in prayer?

In Praying the Truth: Deepening Your Friendship with God through Honest Prayer, William A. Barry, SJ, helps us deepen our friendship with God by examining how to approach God, at any time and with any problem, in complete honesty. Fr. Barry reflects on how secrecy can hurt families, the Church, and ourselves and how what we are keeping secret can get in the way of our connection with God. He acknowledges that we may fear God's reaction when revealing our most intimate truths; but just like with friendships, we risk not developing our relationship with God if we are dishonest about who we are and how we feel.

Praying the Truth helps us realize that if we do not approach God in complete honesty, we may be holding back a part of ourselves that needs to be healed. By learning how to communicate honestly with God, our friendship with God and our faith in God's promise to love us unconditionally will be strengthened.

I usually think of myself as being honest in my prayers but just today I realized that a lot of times I beat around the bush with God instead of being straightforward, especially if I'm feeling guilty or afraid. It doesn't help either that there's so much pressure from some religious people to pray in a self-effacing way. Rowan Williams is an example - In a Times interview he once said ...

"The point of praying is to open yourself up to God so God can do what he wants with you. You come with empty hands, as silent as you can be and say, 'Over to you'. So you could say the function was to make you the person God wants you to be – in the full awareness that that might not be quite the person you think you want to be."

I so dislike that attitude ... it seems like a kind of "zombie" prayer. I like better what what Herbert McCabe OP is said to have thought about prayer ...

McCabe’s defense of petitionary prayer, for instance, is a model of straightforward, no-nonsense pastoral care. People often think that when they pray, they either shouldn’t pray for things—that’s grubby and selfish; you should be “communing with God” or something like that—or the things they pray for should be noble and selfless: world peace, social justice, et cetera. McCabe deflates all of that high-mindedness by noting that when people say they’re distracted during prayer, what they’re really saying is that their real wants are breaking through their high-minded palaver. He observes wryly that people in foxholes or on sinking ships aren’t troubled by distractions to their prayers. McCabe’s advice is to just go ahead and ask for what you really want—a good grade, money for the mortgage, Grandmom getting better, not drowning. You’re not fooling God by praying for things you don’t really desire but rather think you should desire. Maybe you should pray for those things—the Holy Spirit will lead you there eventually—but if you can’t even pray for the things you do want, how are you ever going to pray for the things you should want? Moreover, McCabe contends that there is no such thing as an unanswered prayer. God gives us either what we ask for or more than what we asked for, which we often experience as his saying no. Our not receiving what we want is a way for God to get us to reflect on what we really desire; it’s a way of getting us to realize what we should be praying for, which, in the end, is communion with him.
- from an interview with Eugene McCarraher

Anyway, I've only just started the book but I hope to post some excerpts as I go along.


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