September - Pray Always
Last month, Pope Francis, speaking to 50,000 altar servers from Germany and Austria, advised them not to spend so much time on their mobiles or chatting on the internet – if they do, they don’t have time for what’s really important. He has a point: on YouTube there are well over 4 billion videos watched every day, over 40 per cent on mobile phones. How can we filter out the noise so we focus on the persons? There’s a kind of an answer in last year’s hit film Gravity.
You may remember how Sandra Bullock was up in space repairing the Hubble Space Telescope. A space satellite has disintegrated, and its debris has her hopping from one damaged space module to another, completely out of contact with Houston, and trying to get safely back to Earth. At one stage, aware of how little chance she has of making it, somehow or other knowing it might be useful, she says to herself, ‘I can’t pray. No one ever taught me’.
That’s where the last two chapters in the ICCA are crucial, because they tell us we’ve a direct line to God – as Thomas More put it in his Utopia: ‘From all places [even from outer space] it is the same distance to heaven’.
Even better than the Skype calls I get here in Sydney from my pal David in Washington DC, where we can each see each other while we’re talking, with prayer God is actually in the room with me, and in some way I’m beamed up way beyond our maybe 94 billion light years across universe into the heart of God, beyond space and time, speaking to him as ‘You’. How is this possible?
The ICCA tells us how Jesus, our model for praying, prayed when on earth. He turned to his Father with the one word, ‘Abba’, which means Father. His prayer was carrying on the eternal dialogue of Son with Father in the Holy Spirit which is the inner life of the Trinity. And he’s generously given us a VIP box right up there in and with him. He’s made us children of God, his own brothers and sisters. He’s paid the incredibly expensive access fee; as St Paul puts it with amazement, ‘the Son of God loved me and gave himself up for me’.
Jesus was always in communion with his Father, always in his presence, so as sons and daughters of the same Father we should be too. That’s why Jesus told us to pray always. But how?
If, when doing anything, it’s not me who’s living but Jesus in me, then each day can become a non-stop prayer. Pauline Gögler, the sister of Fr Martin, a German priest friend of mine, was dying from an incurable illness in Brazil, where she’d gone to help build the Focolare community. Each time the drip that was feeding her went into her veins, she said, ‘For you, for you . Praying always is as simple and as hard as that.