There is no such thing as bad prayer. There is suffering and there is temptation; their is pain and their are moments in which we are stripped of the illusions that we are dramatic giants of perfection, but none of these experiences mean that our prayer is bad. In fact, they can sometimes mean the opposite. They can mean that for the first time we are allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal the depths of our poverty; they can mean that we are finally coming to recognize the deep disorders within our hearts and how we are in need of constant forgiveness and infinite mercy. In short, these moments can teach us to rely less on ourselves and more on God.
I am convinced more and more that our contemporary world is in need of a boundless vision of God’s power to heal and transform in which nothing is held back from prayer. So often we approach prayer as if it were an exercise in pious thinking that resembles the flawless beauty of Michelangelo’s Pieta. Instead of prayer being about getting down to the raw reality of human existence, we turn our devotion into a holy illusion that only reinforces our limited egos and self-centered perceptions. Thus, instead of prayer opening us to the infinite potential of God’s Holy Spirit, it becomes a subtle cage which imprisons us in disordered patterns of thinking, feeling, and desiring.
My proposal is a simple one. I propose a vision of prayer in which the totality of the human person is drawn up into the transfiguring light of Christ. All our interior activity is thus to be brought to the Lord in complete surrender. Such a vision includes lectio divina, it includes centering prayer, it includes mindfulness, it includes the Rosary and devotions, it includes running and exercise, it involves anything and everything a human can possibly do, but all done with Christ and in Christ. Thus it is Christian because it involves a complete surrender of everything to Christ so that he can redeem, sanctify, transform, and elevate all things to the throne of His Heavenly Father.
Thus, the Christian can feel free to let their imaginations play or to simply rest with Christ. In meditation, the Christian need not fear if their mind wanders because the goal is not to do something. Prayer is not doing; it is a relationship that is opened up to us through the sacraments. The more we can learn to let go of our need for control, the more we can come to the experience of this reality. The Christian can picture pink elephants dancing on the moon and all the variety of images that may surface, and yet the hallmark of the Christian is that everything is done with Christ and in Christ. Such a vision of prayer gives the Christian permission to wander and play, all in the context of intimacy with Christ.
However, the Christian should beware. Such a potential will always lead back to the Cross. The more that one embraces the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit and the virtuous living that Christian discipleship requires, the more that the believer will have to confront the Devil, his lies, and the deep roots of sin in our lives. Learning to pray with boundless potential is not an escape, but a dramatic facing of reality in which we finally confront our weakness and our need of redemption. This is the only path to happiness, a true happiness which endures the trials of this life.
Today, I invite you to walk this path; to hold before your eyes the possibility of Christ taking full possession of your life. I invite you to invite Christ into all aspects of your life, from the moments in which your imagination plays to the moments that break your heart. I encourage you to invite Christ into your resting and into your activity, giving Christ total access. In this way, I invite you to let everything be drawn up into the reality of prayer.