“As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in schools,” so reads a bumper sticker I once saw back in the States. While prayer is indeed quite encouraged in the seminary, I have a feeling that many prayers were said today for God’s intercession. For today is the first of our two examination days for our scripture courses here on pilgrimage. It occurred to me, as that bumper sticker passed into my mind as I poured over details of the intricacies of the Gospel according to Mark, that most of us tend to pray much more frequently when we need something. Whether it’s last-minute knowledge, a hole in traffic so that we can make it to work on time, or even the larger things such as guidance on one’s vocation in life, a job or even health, it is common to pray for a specific thing. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
It occurs to me that we tend to pray for something when we realize that we lack something in our lives. All of the things which I mentioned above are good things, important things which help us to live our lives and live them to the full. However, we need more than just those individual things. If we pray because we lack some particular thing or cannot get it using only our own power, it can be hard to see the bigger picture. All of us, as created beings, are incomplete on our own. Aristotle describes human beings as the social animal, which is to say that we are made to exist in relationship with one another. This goes beyond our relationships with our fellow human beings and extends to our relationship with God. On our own, we lack the ability to form that perfect relationship with God that He desires to have with his people. Indeed, on our own power, we lack a relationship to God who brought us, and indeed the entire created order, into being and continues to sustain us.Therefore our prayer, while interceding for various needs which we have both individually and as the human race, also brings us to a deeper communion with God. This requires a growing awareness of the ways in which God has worked in our lives. This pilgrimage has allowed each of us to experience, in new and different ways, the way in which God is working in our lives and in the life of the human race. Our prayer, which St. John Damascene defines as “the raising of the mind and heart to God,” ultimately allows us to draw ever closer to God and grow in our love for one another, whom God has made in His image and likeness. In the course of this pilgrimage we have learned to see how God has worked in the course of time and through various different peoples. This has led us to reflect on how God has worked in our own lives. Day by day let us grow ever more aware of how God has worked in our lives in order that, when we see him at the end of our pilgrimage, we might know him and his love for us.