An Invitation To Prayer
It is easy to get entangled into the busyness of life. The cacophony drowns out that voice of inner calm until we become oblivious to its beckoning. A crowded room ironically leaves us in a state of emptiness instead of filling us with the warmth of companionship. Time is always of the essence as they say – catching up deadlines, marathon meetings, juggling family life and career. Until finally, time slips away, and we have no more left of it. Relationships are also essential in human life. To build and sustain it means to have an open communication. Yet, in this day and age of communication technology advancements, the personal touch is waning, and we end up dealing with pre-recorded prompts
If we are to imagine ourselves on a subway platform during rush hour, we can feel it in our core the “organized chaos”. People scurrying by purposefully – each trying to reach their destinations on time. We hear the screeching of the train, the sometimes muffled announcements on the speakerphone, the ping sounds when the train doors open. We also hear the laughter from a group of young people, a middle-aged man arguing loudly on his cell phone. If we cannot keep up the pace with the rushing crowd nor are we able to tolerate people invading our personal space, then it is better to step aside and let the herd get by. But the Lord summons us gently and invites us to “come away with Him in this quiet place and find rest.” (Mark 6:31) A place that is free of discord and His presence alone will suffice to fill an empty heart. But it is very difficult, I could imagine, to break loose from the entrapment of the day’s hectic schedule – every aspect of our lives demanding for attention. Like the raging storm that turmoil our souls, our minds are still deluged with extraneous concerns of the modern world. We try our mighty best and when that opportune moment of silence comes, the Lord declares: “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
- Come away with me in a quiet place and find rest. - They say God works in mysterious ways. You never know if the person sitting beside you on the bus or the person you bumped in the street could be Him. So you look around and see the different faces, thinking that somehow there is some God persona within each individual. So you walk down a busy sidewalk where vendors left and right are desperately trying to get your attention; hoping that you take notice of their merchandise. How do you know then if any one of them is a god within attempting to give you a message? Until here comes a disheveled man, walking up and down the street and wearing a huge sign on his chest and back. The sign says: “Come away with me in a quiet place and find rest.” Now that is a no brainer. It is definitely a message but the one carrying it is not necessarily how we picture God would look like. So we scrutinize some more. Perhaps the man is being paid to promote some cheap hotel accommodation or a beauty spa nearby. Because rarely would people ever pay attention to a sign that is actually intended as an invitation to prayer. For what gain would it be to make a sign like that? Prayer is not a commodity that could be capitalized on. Or perhaps the sign could just be a pickup line. But who knows? Nothing is so shocking anymore – most especially in these days that our minds are severely distorted. The sign could be a lot of things, or it could simply be just what it is – an invitation to a quiet place and then rest. This is where faith comes in then. In our discernment, we just know within our hearts that there is a message out there that is given at the precise moment we need it. There is no logical explanation, but we have a strong sense of conviction that it is directly intended towards us. The second most important question is if we will act upon that message – “Come away with me in this quiet place”. This “quiet place” could be a metaphorical state within our moments of silent musings and/or a physical location that brings us tranquil. Both could set a restful ambiance for a weary soul. So the Lord invites us to create this rendezvous that could serve as our respite from this tumultuous world. “Find rest,” the Lord says because rest invigorates us. Rest is what we need as we continue to travel in this journey called life.
- Be Still: The word “still” references to something immobile or something devoid of sound and noise. Therefore, when the Lord invites us to be still, He is giving us the pre-conditions towards prayer – to stop what we are doing and put ourselves into silence. Silence is a very profound way of communing with God because His wisdom is beyond the limits of our minds and words. “The only language appropriate to address God is silence.” (Delio 16) Silence is a language God can speak without being constantly interrupted because God is a mystery of incomprehensible love, and love speaks for itself. If we could really be attentive to the mystery of God in our lives, we would realize that God is both beyond our thoughts and imagination”. (Delio 17) When the Lord spoke the words “be still,” He is also sending upon us His peace just as He ordered the storm to calm down and be still. Many of us struggle to pray because we acquiesce ourselves to the demands of everyday life of being constantly in motion. We live in a world full of utterances. As we walk to Times Square, we are surrounded with glaring neon light signs and giant LEDs – all trying to articulate something. Cable TV has over hundreds of channels yet only a few catch our interest. We live in a culture that encourages our voices be heard. We live in a nation that exercises its freedom of expressing one's opinion and the right to rationalize its correctness. There is nothing wrong with responsible freedom but we seem to have desensitized ourselves with the constant chatter and noise that when all of these are put to a halt, we cannot stand the deafening silence. The Lord, however, realizes our struggle to achieve both internal and external stillness. We do not put ourselves into prayer. The Lord instills to us that grace to pray. But it is one thing to make ourselves stay put and another thing to calm the tempest within us. So He sends us His Peace - peace that will enable us to be still. Peace is the signature of His manifestation and therefore as we continue to be under the grace of God to experience that peace, the struggle to pray eventually depart and we are inspired to do it as the Spirit leads us.
- Know that I am God. – Knowing God will be a task for eternity because every day as we traverse through life is an unfolding revelation of who He is. And even as we are done with our earthly life we will not have fathomed (nor will we ever be) the mystery of who God is. This is such a profound theological subject that “It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, ‘Behold I am wise’. But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height , we turn away with the thought that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with solemn exclamation, ‘I am but of yesterday, and know nothing’. No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God.” (Packer 13) If God is aware that His existence is incomprehensible to the limited human minds, then why even invite us to be still and know Him? In order to understand Him, we must unclutter our thoughts and hearts. But even the purest of hearts is unable to even accommodate a fraction of His existence. Feeble as my mind is, I would say that knowing God is first of all a humbling experience because we acknowledge our limitations and weaknesses. Secondly, knowing God is not about head knowledge but more about growing in love with this Divine Being. I simply put it as having pen-pals (such an archaic term for this high tech. world) – someone that you haven’t even met, yet you know deep in your heart, as you gradually learn more about this other person thru your correspondence, you realize you’re in love with him or her. But in a deeper context, it is that mystery of God that draws us to Him in the sense that He unravels a piece of Himself in the everyday life we encounter. We’ve grown to love Him not only because of what we know about Him through biblical history but because of His presence or movements in our very own lives. Who He is, for me is not a scholarly debate anymore but it is more of who He is in my (our) personal lives. We know through faith that it is Him all along that pursues us like a lover. And to reciprocate that love, we pursue back the heart of God and desire more His love rather than seek the definition of His being.
The challenge then is, will we be able to heed the call of our “lover” and constantly meet Him in that rendezvous? If He probes us with a query: “Who do you say I AM?”, what will be our response? This will be a life-long contemplation and an on- going discovery of this infinite God. It is only within hope’s reach, that even as we depart from our physical bodies someday, would our spirit soar high and reach heaven’s door. And then at that moment, perhaps, we may be able to finally see the face of God and live.
Delio, O.S.F., Ilia. "A Hidden God." The Humility of God: A Franciscan Perspective. 1st ed. Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger, 2005. 180. Print.
Packer, J.I. "The Study Of God." Knowing God. 3rd ed. Euston Rd. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2005. 298. Print.
© 2015 Ma Teresa V. Santos