I tried — briefly — bargaining with God when we lost Elizabeth, our youngest child. (October 9, 2016)
When the somewhat one-sided conversation was over, I was accepting the unpleasant realities, and asking for help dealing with them: so I don’t feel particularly guilty.
I suspect that some folks say bargaining with God is always wrong because they see it as trying to manipulate God. That’s a bad idea: also impossible. The Almighty is just that. I can’t make God do anything. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 268–274, 2118–2119)
God is good, merciful, and loving. But because we live with consequences of a really bad decision, seeing that love as jealousy and vengeance is easy; and that’s another topic. (Exodus 34:6; Psalms 73:1, 103:8, 136:1–26; Catechism, 270–271, 385, 397–406, 1472)
I’ve talked about anger, vengeance, and free will’s down side, before. (February 12, 2017; November 21, 2016; November 13, 2016: November 6, 2016; October 5, 2016)
“A Vital and Personal Relationship”
Abraham’s discussion with God in Genesis 18:20–33 was, I think, a different sort of “bargaining.” The patriarch was apparently showing concern for God’s reputation.
Prayer should be “a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God.” (Catechism, 2258)
“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”
(St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Manuscrits autobiographiques, C 25r.; via Catechism, 2258
“Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.”
(St. John Damascene, De fide orthodoxa 3,24:PG 94,1089C; via Catechism, 2259)
Ideally, Christian prayer is a gift of God, covenant, and communion. (Catechism, 2258–2565)
I’m pretty sure that my prayers aren’t close to that ideal, but I’m working on it.
Routines and Meaning
Most of my prayers are part of my daily and weekly routines. I don’t see that as a problem, since they’re supposed to be routine: like prayer before meals and during Mass. (Catechism, 1342, 1345–1405, 2698)
A few folks have told me that prayers shouldn’t be memorized, that prayer should always be spontaneous. They had a point.
“…To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition.41
Reducing prayer to ritual words and postures is a bad idea. so is seeing it as just psychological activity, or an effort to make my mind blank. (Catechism, 2726)
Prayer is a gift of grace, and something I can’t do unless I decide it’s worth the effort. (Catechism, 2725)
Prayer is also a battle against attitudes I’ve learned from “this present world,” pitfalls dug when time did not yet exist, and against my own shortcomings. (Catechism, 391–395, 2725–2728)
Happily, there’s help available: drawing from two millennia of Christian experience, built on a much deeper foundation. (Catechism, 2685–2690)
Memorized prayers are in the mix, with a reminder that it’s not just the words. Thinking about what the words mean is important. (Catechism, 2688)
Prayer is always possible. (Catechism, 2743)
However, as anyone who has tried forming a habit of prayer knows, it’s not always easy:
“…There was a moment when I nearly refused to accept. — Deliberately I took the Rosary and very slowly and without even meditating or thinking – I said it slowly and calmly. The moment passed — but the darkness is so dark, and the pain is so painful….”
(Letter to Bishop Lawrence Trevor Picachy (September 1962), as quoted in Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (2009) by Brian Kolodiejchuk, 2009, p. 238; via Wikiquote)
I think memorized prayers help at times like that.
Even when it’s not easy, prayer is always possible. That’s a good thing, because living as a Christian without prayer doesn’t work. Prayer is what makes sharing the love Jesus has for us possible. (Catechism, 2742–2745)
That’s not easy, either, and that’s yet another topic.
Lauds, Vespers, and Me
(From James Chan, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
I started a daily prayer routine after reading David Torkington’s “The Resolution to end all Resolutions” (February 3, 2017).
Started the next day, actually.
I read “Resolution…” last Sunday, and thought finding “one resolution that will help you keep them all” was a good idea. After a little checking, I decided the Liturgy of the Hours would be a good starting point.
I’m a Catholic layman, not a priest, so doing the entire Liturgy of the Hours isn’t required.
Different prayers, Psalms, and assorted hymns go with each hour of each day throughout the year. Details have changed over the centuries. That probably upset quite a few tight-collared folks along the way, and that’s yet again another topic.
Instead of trying to jump straight into a prayer regimen designed for someone else, I looked through the major hours. By the end of Sunday evening, I had a morning and an evening set of prayers, based on Lauds and Vespers.
I speak English, so the starting prayer for both is “God, come to my assistance; Lord, make haste to help me.”
Each ends with a form of the doxology: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”
“World without end” isn’t a literal translation of in saecula saeculorum.
That can be translated as “forever,” “to the ages of ages,” or “unto the ages of ages.” I understand that “world without end” is a synonym for “eternity;” it’s more comfortable, metrically, in my language; so I’m a happy camper.
Together, my morning and evening prayers add up to 520 words. Each includes the Lord’s Prayer, plus something to get started each day — and wrap up with thanks and resolution to do better. I haven’t missed either set so far.
Having both printed out and displayed on my desk helps. A lot.
Matthew’s Gospel has all seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, Luke has five, and that’s still another topic. (Matthew 6:9–13; Luke 11:1–4; Catechism, 2759, 2803–2854)
A Prayer for Clouded Hearts
(From Sb2s3, via Wikipmedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
Some prayers, like the Lord’s Prayer, have been around for millennia.
Compline goes back to somewhere in the fourth to sixth centuries: there’s been some discussion of that, and we’re still not sure.
St. Francis of Assisi probably wrote most of the Canticle of the Sun in 1224, and folks are still thinking of new prayers. I don’t see a problem with that, provided that the new prayer makes sense.
My third-oldest daughter wrote a prayer somewhere around December 1, 2011. She said sharing it was okay:
I pray to You, O Gracious Shepherd
For the sheep who’ve gone astray.
Grant that through Your Wondrous Power
Their clouded hearts will stir today.
Let them know Your Constant Mercy
Let Their hearts and souls be blessed
Grant that this, my prayer, be answered
Bring them safely home to rest.
Jesus, I Trust in You
Other posts, not entirely unrelated:
- “Blessing the House”
(January 1, 2017)
- “The Rosary”
(October 30, 2016 )(Guest post)
- “Authority, Superstition, Progress”
(October 30, 2016)
- “The Virtue Trap”
(October 23, 2016)
- “Mother Teresa: ‘The Moment Passed’”
(September 4, 2016)
What does God want of us in prayer? Does He want us to beg like dogs for favours, for things to go our way, and for promises if they do? Does He want us to bargain? Like a business transaction? If you do this for me, I’ll do that … recite the Rosary daily … light candles … give £100 to charity … and so on.
Christ taught us that God is “Our Father who are in Heaven”. He did not say “Our Master, Ruler, Dictator, Monster … who demands this and that from us”.
By “Father”, Jesus meant a loving parent who cares about His children and would do all He can for them and their well-being.
As children we asked many things of our parents, some we got, and some we did not; and indeed, yes, we did bargain with them and often got our way as a result.
But praying to God is not bargaining. We cannot influence God and change His decisions. But often, our prayers, our bargaining if that’s what it is, opens a channel, a communication, with our Heavenly Father, whereby He listens and often, in His time and in His way, He responds to our requests, our demands, or our bargaining.
It is pointless us questioning whether our prayers influenced Him or not, whether He changed His mind or not, or whether He would have responded this way regardless of our prayers.
What is important is that, as children, we asked, and as a loving parent, He responded. In His time and in His way.
Just as our loving parents responded to us; and, hopefully, we respond to our children.
The only difference is that, being God, He makes no mistakes in His responses which are motivated by love.
Dear Brian, I am so sorry for your loss, though we know she is with Him. Thank you for your insight and compassion in sharing what you have discovered… Through my own suffering, I have learned that God is truly only good and He truly only loves us…no matter what… just because. God bless you and yours richly…May our Blessed Mother cover you in her mantle.
– – – and thank you for your kind words and prayer. I am hoping for and looking forward to quite a big reunion.
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