By Father Joseph Breighner
“More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.”
We are familiar with the words of the poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson. Do we really believe them?
As we hear more and more stories of terrorist attacks, and armed conflicts in the Middle East, prayer can seem so weak. And, yet, as St. Paul said: “It is when I am weak that I am strong.” By that he meant that, when he relied on his own resources, he failed. But, when he relied on God, then he was strong.
To pray doesn’t just mean to look “out there” for answers. To pray from the heart is not just to turn to God, but to turn into God. “It is now no longer that I live, but Christ lives in me.” The reason we have such faith in the Eucharist is that we not only feed on God, but that we become the presence of the God we feed on.
As long as we hate, we become what we hate. When we love, we become what we love. “God is love.” That’s not just a description of God. It’s a description of us.
What might we pray? Any prayer is a good prayer if it feeds your spirit and connects you to God. The prayer of St. Francis of Assisi is a timeless prayer: “Lord make me an instrument of your peace. … ”
Allow me to share a prayer that I prayed at the Eucharist with the School Sisters of Notre Dame: “O God, you are the source of life and peace. Praised be your name forever. We know it is you who turns our minds to thoughts of peace in this time of war. We pray that enemies begin to speak to one another; that those who are estranged join hands in friendship; that nations seek the way of peace. Strengthen our resolves to give witness to these truths by the way we live. Give to us: understanding that puts an end to strife; mercy that quenches hatred; and forgiveness that overcomes vengeance. Empower all people to live your law of love.”
You may have your own favorite prayer. The words don’t matter as much as the decision to pray. What if everyone prayed for peace every day? Love is a decision. Peace is a decision.
I’ve said before that sin is an identity crisis. When we sin we forget who we are. We forget that we are made in God’s image and likeness, and therefore act in ways that contradict that reality.
Many of us remember the story of World War I, when the Americans and Germans, separated by only a few hundred yards in their trenches, could sing Christmas Carols together for one night. Sadly, when Christmas passed, the killing began again. But at least, for one night, they recognized a common identity.
Today we must come back again to a common identity that we are all made in the image and likeness of God. While different people may share different images of God, no one would want to disrespect God. Yet that is precisely what we do when we kill each other.
Inevitably, what fuels our conflicts is our fear. Allow me to close with a powerful meditation on fear from a Hazelden publication. Fear feeds our addictions. Fear feeds our wars.
“Fear is the curse of the world. Many are our fears. Fear is everywhere. I must fight fear as I would a plague. I must turn it out of my life. There is no room for fear in the heart in which God dwells. Fear cannot exist where true love is or where faith abides. So I must have no fear because: ‘perfect love casts out fear.’ Fear destroys hope, and hope is necessary for all of humanity.”
As Christians we believe that the “Word became flesh.” God took on our humanity. Through prayer let us become so transformed that we take on God’s divinity.
Read more commentary from Father Breighner here.