Faith and Prayer
“A certain man was on his hands and knees outside his house , crawling around and feeling the ground with his fingers when a neighbor walking by stopped and asked , ‘What are you doing?’
The first man answered, ‘I am looking for my lost keys’.
The neighbor asked, ‘Can I help you?’
‘Oh, thank you,’ the homeowner answered.
So the two of them continued the search. Finally, as the hot sun was rising towards noontime, the neighbor asked, ‘Do you remember where you had them last?’
‘In the house’ the first answered.
‘So why are we looking for them outside?’
‘Because the light is much better here.’
This story was from the Desert Fathers as retold by my former Abbot Dom Thomas Keating in one of his books on centering prayer. ‘That is what many of us spend our lives doing; looking for happiness, for fulfillment, for God, in the wrong direction’. This search for the Kingdom of God is being done outside of ourselves, whereas the Kingdom of God is “within us”(Mk 1:15-16 and Lk. 17:21).
This does not mean that we should turn away from others in order to seek God, for God is to be found within everybody and so God surrounds us within ourselves and within others, even within our enemies. ‘Whatsoever you do to one of these, the least of my brothers, you do to me.’(Mt.5:19)
As Good Saint Pope John XXIII declared at the start of the Second Council of the Vatican, ‘ut Unum Sint’ quoting Jesus at the last discourse on the night before he died(‘That all might be one’,Jn.17:22)
So knowing this, let us pray as Jesus told us to, not with many words, or excessive thoughts and feelings but “Go into your inner room and there pray to your Father in secret” (Mt 6:6). Belief is what we need, for knowledge will not be sufficient, and if we think we do not have sufficient faith, ask for it for it is a gift from God and God will not be stingy with it.
Find God at the center of your being, not as an insight or a vision or a feeling, but totally in faith.
At the start of Jesus’ ministry as recorded in the “keynote’ in the earliest written of the four Gospels, Mark, Jesus begins by revealing the “good news” from God: ‘Jesus came from Galilee proclaiming the good news of God and saying, ‘The present moment is the right time, change the way you think about Reality for the Kingdom of God is within you. Believe THIS good news"' (Mk. 1:15-16).
Thus we are told to get into the here and now, forget about the past, don’t worry about the future, and go IN before God, naked and humble, and just spend some time in silence and in gratitude and love with our loving God.
Belief is not the same as to think and have a conception of that we believe in as we might express in some credal formula. To say ‘I believe in my mother’, means so much more than the thoughts I have about her. My belief in my mother is a personal loving condition I have at my very deepest part. It is more than just saying it, although that is a very good habit.
It is like that with belief in God. I believe in God because I know Jesus and I believe in him and whom I have grown to love his Person within my own person. Jesus could not lie. This I know from “meeting” him personally in prayer and from getting to know him from the Gospels.
In prayer, I am blessed to be with Jesus and the Father within my own inner room. Just ‘being’ with him, not necessarily having to say any words. On many occasions in my lifetime I have found myself unable to say any words to help and I word often “cop out’ with the awful expression ‘Words fail me.’
As Dom Thomas used to say, ‘Prayer is like when the faithful dog lies at the feet of his master and all he can do to show his love is to wag his tail.’
Or he used to describe young people falling in genuine love with each other: ‘At first meeting, they are a bit fearful and they find saying words to each other stiff and difficult. Later, as they grow to know each other better, they relax and talk joyfully and eagerly in order to know each other better inside and out. This growing knowledge allows for the expression of words of affection and even deeds showing this affection, hugs and kisses, while all the time respecting and not using each other.
When Jesus said, ‘Be not afraid,’ he wasn’t just referring to walking on water, but it is most applicable to our tendency to be afraid of God, and afraid that our belief in Jesus is mistaken. But Jesus responds, ‘Don’t be afraid, I am with you all days, even to the end of time and when you pray, know that God is within."