FUNDAMENTAL FAITH: The Three R’s by Julia Marks

[FUNDAMENTAL FAITH: We all too often take for granted or even forget some of the fundamentals of our faith. These basic principles of faith are part of what it means to be catholic and affect how we pray or do not pray. Prayer is as fundamental as it gets. Here are some thoughts on the three R’s of prayer by another blogger.]

woman in prayer Pictures, Images and Photos
As I rummaged around the fundamentals of prayer 
looking for ways to talk about it 
I happened upon a concept that would have flown right past me 
as I grew up and studied the miracle and joy that is prayer. 
Unquestioningly I would have included God in the effort. 
But, I realized, not everyone would be so accepting about the 
fundamentals of prayer, and take them on without thinking them over first.

So the question is, why God? Why pray to God? 
Why include God in our petitions to the universe? 
There is, after all, 
a system of writing out affirmations for our perceived wants and needs. 
If I want a new job then all I have to do is write out, 
for a specified number of times, I, Julia, will find a new job this week. 
Or some such formula.

Why not just stick with a system that puts me as the creator of my life? 
In fact, why not just skip the words of petition altogether
and just buy a newspaper or go to the local job bank? 
Why not just rely on myself? Works for a whole lot of people, it strikes me.

So I started mulling this over. 
It’s a topic that may take the rest of my life to truly address, 
but as this is about fundamentals of prayer, 
I thought I would get really fundamental and start somewhere. 
So I am starting with three R’s: relationship, reliance, and rest. 
(I could write about these concepts forever, so be warned.)

If we define prayer (and I do) as 
the act of bringing an idea into reality through God, 
adopting this definition into our lives commits us to a relationship with God. 
It’s a seemingly tenuous concept, I know. 
A relationship between a person (almost completely restricted to being relative) and God (almost completely restricted to being absolute). 
It’s mind-boggling. But it is doable. 
We recognize our ability to have a relationship with God in our souls. 
The recognition of it vibrates there. We try to articulate it, define it, celebrate it.

In concrete terms, though, 
a commitment to having a relationship with God is 
an acknowledgment that we have made a choice between 
taking charge of creating our own lives and 
standing aside, at least spiritually, and 
allowing God to have a say in the creation of our lives.

I think that for some people, looking over at a life of a committed Christian, 
they might not be impressed by what they see. 
Instead of a new SUV in the drive-way and landscape gardening in the yard, 
an onlooker might witness the Christian 
helping wayward youth in their spare time, 
or spending a lot of time at church, or living a modest life. 
As Teresa of Avila says to God, you are so hard on your friends, 
it’s no wonder that you have so few.

Or something to that effect.

But, indeed, a commitment to having a relationship with God 
is all about the Book of Life, and our page in it. 
Who gets to write the page? Me? You? Or, God? 
When we stop assuming that we are solely responsible for our own lives, 
then we step out into that bottomless chasm that we call faith, 
and we go from there.

And where do we go? To our knees, of course.

Reliance on God. 
Ah. Another mine-field of horrified feelings about our relationship with God. 
How do we rely on God? 
God’s not solid, not something that I can physically lean on. 
Except for those times that I do. 
Why isn’t God predictable? 
Or, more to the point, why can’t I have more control over God?

Control is not a theological concept, 
except when it comes to trying to control ourselves. 
God does not control us. We do not control God.

So, if control does not exist in our relationship with God, for what can we rely on God?

Well, as we apply this concept to prayer, 
we can experience, pretty quickly, 
that we cannot rely on God to answer every prayer. 
Neither can we rely on God to answer our prayers 
in the manner that we have envisioned.

God is not Santa Clause. 
Prayer is not a matter of making out a list and submitting it 
and then judging God on how well he fulfills your every desire. 
At times, I refer to Christians who view prayer this way as “ATM Christians,” that is, they think that prayer is a matter of inserting their card 
(filled with good deeds, etc.) and getting what they think is due them.

Wonder why this doesn’t work that well for them. Hummmm.

So what can we absolutely rely on when we pray to God?
We can know, absolutely, that 
the answer that we get is absolutely the right one for us. 
This has to do with our spiritual development. 
What we receive in answer to our prayers is 
what we need to open our minds, hearts, and souls more completely to God.

And so on to…

When we pray, and accept the answer, 
because we have committed ourselves to having a relationship with God, 
and, relying on God to always give us the right answer to our prayer, 
we can allow our souls to relax in their struggle to understand the meaning of life. 
We can be still and know that God is God.

This may not seem like much, but, in truth, it is everything.

Think of all those people you know who have 
the job they want, the house they want, 
the material things and social activities that they claim fulfill them. 
And now listen to their hearts. Aren’t they still seeking? Aren’t they still craving?

Look at all the marital strife broadcast nightly. 
And the seemingly endless line of court cases 
against those who, at least in their own minds, had it all. 
Talk about lemmings, who I know do not jump over cliffs to their death, 
but, just for the moment, let’s suspend reality and pretend like they do.

We seem to.

Drugs. Sex. Oblivion. These are the most celebrated things in our culture.

Myself, I’ll stick with God. And peace.





About Paul Wharton

I am a cradle Catholic, a native West Virginian, and a priest since April 24, 1982. Spiritual Direction has made a tremendous difference in my life and I encourage people to try it out. My motto is "Progress not perfection." I am grateful that God has done for me what I could not do for myself.
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3 Responses to FUNDAMENTAL FAITH: The Three R’s by Julia Marks

  1. Kelly Rose says:

    “It’s 4;30 am on a Tuesday.
    It doesn’t get much worse than this.
    In beds in little rooms in the middle of these lives,
    which are completely meaningless.
    Help me to stay awake, I’m falling.
    Asleep in perfect blue buildings.
    Beside the green apple sea.
    I’m wanna get me a little oblivion, baby.
    Try to keep myself away from myself and me.”

  2. Um, I’ve read those words somewhere before….

    • Paul Wharton says:

      And good words, too! I wish I had thought of this approach. I just am fascinated by good alliteration (3 R’s) and acronyms such as P.U.S.H. (Pray Unril Something Happens).

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