Purposeful Prayer is Perpetual |
Prayer does not change God's will, but it may change ours, that we become receptive to His blessings. A father wishes to send his son to college. During hight school days the boy becomes recalcitrant and disobedient, steals, has a police record, and becomes a juvenile delinquent. He is finally sent to reform school. Has the father changed his will about sending him to college? The father still wills it, but the boy does not go to college even though the father wills it. It is because the boy has not fulfilled those conditions which were necessary for the father's giving him a college education. Prayer, in like manner, is the fulfillment of conditions which make greater blessings possible.
Normally, priests are ordained at the age of twenty-four. I was ordained at twenty-four but evidentally must have been mentally retarded, for I was sent to universities for five more years. Five years after my ordination, I was studying philosophy at the University of Louvain in Belgium. I wished to go to Lourdes to celebrate the fifth anniversary of my pristhood. Lourdes is known not only to the faithful but to almost everyone through the movie The Song of Bernadette and Franz Werfel's book on the same subject. I had enough money to go to Lourdes, but not enough to live on once I arrived. I asked my brother, who was studying medicine at the University of Louvain, for some money. He was a typical university student, too. I reflected, "Well, if I have faith enough to go to Lourdes to celebrate the fifth anniversary of my ordination, it is up to the Blessed Mother to get me out." I went to Lourdes and arrived broke. I then figured that if the Blessed Mother would pay my hotel bill, she could just as well pay a big one as a little one. I went to the best hotel in Lourdes. It was fourth-rate by our standards, but it was the best hotel in Lourdes. On the fifth day I received my bill. I had visions of gendarmes and jails, but I stuck it out because the novena called for nine days of prayer. I went down to the shrine on the morning of the ninth day. Nothing happened. The ninth evening nothing happened - then it was serious. I decided to give the Blessed Mother another chance. I paid a visit to the shrine about half-past ten that night. As I was saying a roary, a portly gentleman tapped me on the shoulder. "Are you an American priest? Do you speak French? Do you know Paris? Well, I am Mr. _________ from New York. This is my son and my daughter and my wife." We walked back to the hotel together. "We want you to come to Paris with us tomorrow and talk French for us." He said, "Have you paid your hotel bill yet?" That was the most interesting question I have ever heard in my life. I outfumbled him for the bill. It was one of those not too rare moments in life where the grasp does not exceed the reach. We went to Paris, stayed there for a week, at the end of which he said, "I will give you my address in New York. Do you mind taking it at the bottom of a check?"
The moral of this story is not to go to the Waldorf-Astoria and expect the Blessed Mother to pay your bill; the moral is that the Heavenly Mother does intercede to Her Divine Son for importunate and demanding children.
In addition to petition, there is also worship. It has been asked, "Why does God want praise? Is He a potentate, sitting on a throne, very unhappy and miserable when we do not pay Him some adulation?"
God does not need praise; we need to give it. In many homes at springtime, little girls about three and four years of age go out to the lawn to gather up bunches of dandelions. The mother is presented with them very solemnly. This creates a difficulty. She must get a vase for the dandelions; she may even have to display them , which she certainly does not want to do.
The mother does not need dandelions. But the child needs to give them. By accepting the dandelions, the mother is training the child in love, kindness, and goodness. Not to give a gift to the mother, however humble the gift, would mean the child was wanting in affection and obedience. God does not need our praise; we need to give it.
Worship disaffects the soul of its prepossessions and attachments; de-egotizes it, creates a void such as is in a reed, which makes music possible. It prepares the soul, putting the ego out of self that the Divine may find a place. Detachment from self is always the condition of attachment to others. God pretends to need us, but we really need Him for our perfection.
Worship, too, is praise. Unbelief is the enemy of praise; so is selfishness. Some think that, by praising others, they belittle themselves. As praise of God decreases, so encouragement of others decreases. We can no more do anything to diminish the glory of God than a lunatic can blot out the sun by writing "darkness" on the wall of a cave.
How little we praise our fellowman! Does a husband ever thank a wife for preparing meals? In eighteen years she has prepared over nineteen thousand meals. Does a wife ever praise a husband for supporting her? Where there is love, there is gratitude and praise.
A brief word about prayer as action. All work can be turned into prayer as can all play, recreation, sorrow, and contradiction. Those who work booms and cameras in television studios, stenographers, taxi drivers, bartenders, doctors, housekeepers, ballplayers - all can turn their work into prayer, provided they offer it in the name of the Good of the Lord.
Down in the gutter of a city street was a drop of water, soiled, dirty, and stagnant. Way up in the Heavens, a gentle sunbeam saw it; leaped from out of the azure sky, down to the drop, kissed it, thrilled it through and through with new strange life and hopes, lifted it up higher and higher and higher beyond the clouds, and one day left it as a flake of immaculate snow on a mountaintop. So our own humdrum, routine, workaday lives in the pantry and in the school, in the office and on the farm, in the machine shot can be ennobled, spiritualized, and divinized, provided we bring to them the inspiration of Someone Who saw apostolic zeal in salt; provided we bring to them the inspiration of a Captain bearing five wounds in the forefront of battle; provided we bring to them the fixed flash of that instant and intolerant Enlightenment - the Lightning made eternal as the Light.