After joining the Brotherhood, one of the treasured gifts we have all received was the gift of “Prayer”. I am sure this was the experience of most if not all members of the BCBP. The prayer format of “ACTS” – Adoration, Contrition (or Confession), Thanksgiving, and Supplication – was very novel and refreshing for anyone who was not at all accustomed to a life of prayer, a great way to be introduced to and immersed in the presence of God. Fr. Herb of course reminds us that the “C” is not so much for contrition but should really stand for “Confession”. Contrition must not stop with just being sorry for one’s sins but must really be a confession or profession with our lips that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, the one who forgives our sins.
Be that as it may, however, ACTS taught us a good way of how to pray and to make it a daily habit so that slowly we would begin to see and experience the role and presence of God in our lives. The habit of prayer increased our level of awareness of Jesus, a gradual seeing of his face in the daily grind of life. My own experience was that it was good for a while.
A number of years after, however, ACTS began to grow stale. I suppose some members also go through the same experience in the journey of prayer. I am surprised, however, that a number of old action groups still pray ACTS in their action group meetings. Even worship assemblies of chapters cling on to ACTS as their worship format. It is as if ACTS has time-warped. There must be more to prayer than just praying ACTS I thought.
Over time, the Lord made me realize that prayer life has to progress. Beyond ACTS, prayer transformed into a lot of thanksgiving. Consciousness blossomed and made me realize the wonderful work of God in my life and the tremendous outpouring of blessings every day. And so, daily prayer became expressions of gratitude.
Later on, the Lord led me to a deeper form of prayer and it is just being still in His presence. No more need for words. Prayer once again morphed into just listening to Him. But better than that, it progressed into just being absolutely silent in his presence. Stillness in his presence became filled with awe and wonder of our almighty God. Prayer even became a 24 by 7 practice in that awareness of his presence throughout the day heightened. I think that is prayer too, a relationship that permeates all activities throughout the day.
Through this journey, however, I was brought to an apparent contradiction.
The teachings we have had in the Brotherhood tell us that we are supposed to pray to God unceasingly. We should not stop asking him to answer our prayers much like the individual in the Bible knocking on his neighbor’s doors endlessly until he was given what he wanted. We were taught that we should be the same way with our God. We should not stop asking him to listen to our prayers for healing, for financial blessings, for reparation, for reconciliation, so that God will respond to our supplications, minor and major. Not only do we pray by ourselves, we even ask others to intercede for us. It is as if that God will not listen to us unless we badger and bombard Him with our prayers, the same supplications day in day out, until He gives in.
On the other hand, I was bothered with the thought that if God is perfect, all knowing, and all loving, does He not know what we need. Do I even have to ask God persistently? Doesn’t He already know and therefore should I dare to even pester Him with a continuous barrage of prayer supplications? Isn’t one prayer enough? Doesn’t it show a lack of faith on our part? Why does he exhort us to pray without ceasing?
I was given the answer one morning to this apparent contradiction. I was made to understand that our Lord God has no wish to be informed of our desire – of which he cannot be ignorant. The reason why He wants us to pray unceasingly is because He wants our hearts to be stirred up by prayer so that when the answer comes we may be able to receive what He is preparing to give us, that we will not be overwhelmed. His answer is obviously so great and the blessings so many that our meager capacity may not be able to contain the outpouring of God’s answers! The uninterrupted prayer that God wants us to practice therefore is for the shaping of our character, to have more faith, more hope and confidence, to desire with a greater ardor in our hearts. Prayer is the way to increase our awareness of how He works in our lives.
Prayer is a variety of experiences, more shades of gray than white or black, and peculiar to one’s sensitivity to the presence of God. Although we may find sometimes contradictions in our prayer life, it is in fact prayer that brings us home to the answer to these contradictions. Whether we badger God or we lie still in His presence, one thing is sure – God is there for us, listening and waiting for the opportune time to pour out His blessings on us.