• Who Is That God That You Pray To?

    [BY: ZANI PACANZA]


    As far as I remember, I have been taught to pray the minute I started learning the alphabet. I grew up in a very Catholic home. We have an altar and Bible at the living room. Every night, our family would gather around it and pray. We also pray before and after each meal. My parents were members of a Catholic Charismatic Group. They would gather weekly for praise, worship, reading of the Scriptures, reflection and sharing. My mother would always bring us there. We also joined Catechism classes and so we learned the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Apostle’s Creed, and other Catholic prayers. And of course, we would never miss the Sunday Mass. In fact, I and my two brothers served as altar boys in our parish.

    When I was young, prayer was taught to me. As I was growing up, I learned to pray using my own words. So prayer for me became something personal. But like any aspect of life, I struggled in my journey towards growth in prayer. As I look back now, I realized I have changed my attitude towards prayer depending on how I view God.

    Praying to God as a Santa Claus. As kids, we always ask for things from God. We pray for Him to give us the bike we want, or the toy car we like. This, I assume, is normal. But what is not good is when we expect God to grant us our wish because we think we have been good and obedient to Him. Unfortunately, this was my attitude during my teenage years. I would ask Him for something, and I expect that I would soon have it. If not, I would get mad at Him because I felt I deserved to have it since I was a “good” Christian. Like what the book “Shaped by the Word” by M. Robert Mulholland said, I reminded God of His “responsibility” to grant my desire because I have been “faithful” to Him (115). I demanded His response because I have done my part. But is this the right attitude in praying? Definitely not.

    Praying to God as a Strict Disciplinarian. At some point, I have also looked at God as someone who punishes me every time I commit a mistake. So when something bad happens to me, I would kneel down trembling before Him in fear, thinking that my misfortune must be a punishment for something wrong I did. For instance, when I failed an exam in class even if I studied hard, I would pray to God and say: “Lord, maybe this is Your punishment because I answered back my mom yesterday.” Of course, later on I realized that this is a very immature and wrong perception of God.

    Praying to God as a Friend. As I mature in my spiritual life, I have also learned how to mature in my prayer life. Eventually, I realized that God, more than anything else, is a dear friend to me. Someone I can talk to, someone I can turn to whether in good times or bad, in times of joy or sorrow. I learned that with God, I can be totally honest. I can share my happiness to Him and also vent out my frustrations and He will just be there, accepting me for who I am, but always wanting what’s best for me. So from this point on, I learned to pray anytime and anywhere. I pray whether I’m in my room, at school or in my work. I pray when I’m walking, running, waiting in traffic, travelling, or even when I’m in the bathroom. I just talk to Him like I’m talking to a friend. And the best part is, I know He listens, no matter what.

    Praying to God as my Everything. Eventually, I have come to realize that God is not just a friend, but He is, in fact, everything to me. He is my parent, my sibling, confidant, adviser, counselor, Creator, Provider, Redeemer, Savior, Sanctifier, and Comforter. He is the Food of my soul, the Music of my heart, and the very Air that I breathe. He is my everything. And without Him, I am nothing. Therefore, I have come to have a deeper and more personal relationship with Him whenever I pray. When I pray, I would not just ask for things. I would praise and worship Him for His glory, thank Him for all that He has given me and also ask forgiveness for my sins. My prayer has become my so-called “God-space”, a moment where I communicate and enter into a deep communion with Him. This experience brings me great peace from within, and I realize the purpose of my soul, that is to love and serve Him all my life (Walsch, 116).

    Prayer is a very important aspect of a person’s life. In fact, it is not just an aspect of life, it is life itself. Prayer is breathing and living. For without it, we will have no means of connecting, communicating and communing with our God. As I grow up in my prayer life, I have come to love all sorts of prayer: the memorized ones, the ones recited aloud, and the personal prayers I say in the silence of my heart. This is the reason why I love going to the Mass. The Mass for me is the highest form of prayer. And it builds and strengthens our relationship with the Lord. It is where we become one with Christ in His Body & Blood.

    Yet in all of these, “the essential question is not whether the person is present at Mass and faithful to personal daily prayers, but whether he/she brings a truly open and listening heart to these activities”. Because prayer is not a one-way thing. I do not always do the talking. Prayer is also about being still and silent, listening intently to God’s word. In Lectio Divina, for instance, I have to be open to what God wants to say to me through His Sacred Scriptures. This way, I can become more attuned to God in my prayer life.

    I believe that prayer is the best way towards holiness. And like what Fr. Thomas Green, SJ, said in his book “Prayer & Common Sense”, holiness is the vocation of every human being, and specifically of every disciple of Jesus Christ, and that this call to holiness is a call to love as we are loved. And I believe that the best way to build this loving relationship with our Lord is through a prayer filled with sincerity and openness. For what better way to relate with Him but through the very thing that connects us to our God, that beautiful thing we call PRAYER!

    How about you? Who is that God that you speak with when you pray?

    Image credit: The Hilltop Seminary by Zani Pacanza

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