The description of Prayer is really a task higher than my ‘pay grade.’ For, despite a Masters degree in Theology, I am a mere spiritual peasant seeking life saving sustenance through the Body of Christ in the world, the Church.
Here, I have learned of prayer. Here, I have learned to pray. And here, I find the source and summit of all prayer, to include my own prayer.
Simply, prayer is dialogue with God. For God is a Trinity of dialogue, hence the ground of all ‘prayer.’ Prayer springs from Love. And we all know, at least intellectually, that ‘God is Love.’ Prayer is also a ‘Word,’ spoken in Love. Jesus is the Word of God spoken to us for our salvation. Prayer is also a participation in God’s self Revelation, in the Holy Spirit, which reveals the true, and the good, and the beautiful in the human person, and what we really are meant for–life’s purpose/our purpose–in Jesus Christ. Prayer is also proof of God’s presence, and proof of God’s support of our prayer. This is true since grace is the source of our prayer, and the Holy Spirit is the energy of our prayer, even when we think our prayer is nothing but muffled groans.
Prayer is appropriate for the sinner. Prayer is the only lifeline in a dark, worldly storm. Jesus has the other end of this rope. He’s strong, trustworthy, and dying to save you. Prayer is appropriate for the lukewarm, churchgoing, venial struggler. Prayer is a parental rebuke soaked in Wisdom, Love, and direction. Prayer is appropriate for the saint. Prayer is ground in heavenly safe humility. Prayer is a dialogue of praise, thanksgiving, and adoration.
Prayer is seemingly alone in the garden of Gethsemane. Prayer is seemingly alone in the ‘dark valley.’ Prayer is alone in the private room of intimacy with Jesus. But prayer springs from the Trinity, Three in One, self-giving in Love to the point of Crucifixion and Resurrection. Therefore, prayer must emphasize the ‘our’ of the Our Father. God is Love, and Love is Mercy, and Mercy is Reconciliation, and Reconciliation is in unity, and unity is God pleasing in the Church, as the Body of Christ, and we are His Body. Prayer finds its source in Jesus, in the Eucharist of His unity with the Father in the Holy Spirit, and prayer finds its summit in our communion with God and man in the charity of the Cross, perpetuated Eucharistically, and lived out in the suffering prayer-life of the saint. Better said, it is lived out in the life of the saint, which is a prayer.
Prayer can be formal, or spontaneous, short or longwinded, from meditation, in contemplation, in joy, fear, anger, sadness, guilt, repentance, praise, thanks, or from any truly human experience. God is the source and the summit of them all. For the definition of a beautiful and true prayer is in its genuine intent. In this it is heard. In this it is answered.
But, once again, I am at a loss for words in the Mystery of how God answers prayer. I can only say, through faith, that he does.