Many times “discovery” is only “recovery” of that which is already known. Recently reading a book on cruise ships (taking a cruise in a few months and thought of boning up on seasickness and abandoning ship techniques), the author discovers what can change the life of everyone on the planet: yoga and meditation. This gentleman talked of the burden of playing in a band four hours a night on a ship and having the rest of the time off. His life on board was so stressful that he turned to the life saving methods aforementioned. First, if your life is that stressed out by working four hours on a cruise line, you really should consider never getting married and having children. Second, the third world crew members who work 18 hour days must really be in tough shape.
This man’s life changing technique is what we Christians call prayer, although without the gyrations, stretching and contortions that some forms of yoga entail (unless you consider the gymnastics of pentecostals, charismatics and the odd rastafarian). In the western religious tradition, prayer and meditation as a stress reducer have been around for a long time; in the eastern traditions, perhaps longer. Granted, prayer is much more than a relaxation technique; for Christians it is many things but primarily an encounter with God. In Hinduism it is an encounter with one, two or many gods (I took a course in Hinduism in college only because no one cared to enroll in Nihilism 101). In today’s Gospel we have the form of prayer called self-giving. [Mt 22:15-21]
“But Father,” you will say, thinking my Holy Water font is a dram low, “this Gospel says nothing about prayer.” And you would be wrong incense breath; this is the most challenging, most frightful Scripture passage that many could image. “Give to Caesar what is Caesars, but to God what is God’s.” What belongs to Caesar? In this case, the Roman coin, but think about what belongs to God. Of course, you do. He created you, He redeemed you, He loves you and the Lord wants us to be with Him eternally. Part of the constant struggle of a Christian is in this prayer of self-giving and oh how frightening it is to let go of our control of the world and seek to put our very selves in the Hands of God.
In daily life, this is a challenge. The martyrs gave their lives for the faith, the ultimate prayer of self-giving. The confessors suffered for the faith and were ready to die for the Lord. The monks and nuns of the desert in the early age of the Church, and still to this day, sought to give themselves to God in solitude and community through the evangelical vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Ordinary Christians find their own ways to giving their lives to God, through family, the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, the sacraments, etc. We don’t discover this form of prayer; for the Christian it is a way of life.
There is much more to say on prayer, but I need to get back to the proper way to cry and pray while putting on a life preserver.