“We cannot live on sugar alone however agreeable it might be to the taste, and so it is with the human heart which cannot long sustain so pure a communication with God. We are not yet angels and until God condescends at times to our weaknesses, we should die with languor and desire. If I pray for what God wills, I am sure to pray for what God wishes for me, if I pray for what I think God wishes for me: I am not sure I pray for what God wills for me.”
Isaac Thomas Hecker CSP
A Response from Paul Robichaud CSP:
Servant of God Father Isaac Hecker begins with a quote from a sermon of Saint John Chrysostom on the necessity of prayer. When we don’t speak to God in prayer, we become spiritually dead. For the great saint and bishop of Constantinople, prayer is the way to feed our souls and it nurtures the gift of eternal life that God grants us. When we stop praying says the saint, eternal life begins to die in us.
Father Hecker adds some interesting insight into the ups and downs of our prayer life as Christians. We are not yet angels, so while prayer feeds the soul, it takes time in prayer to build up the intimacy that the angels possess when they speak with God. Prayer does not happen in one direction. We move towards God when we pray and we hope God moves towards us. Jesus teaches that God does move towards us. When we fail, God moves toward us in forgiveness. When we feel empty and tired, God moves towards us with strength and hope. When we pray, God takes us where we are and brings us to where God is. Not only is prayer a vehicle to speak with God, it is a movement of God towards us in faith, hope and love.
Prayer is transformative, In the last part of our Hecker reflection today Father Hecker speaks about the difference between what we hope God wants for us and what God actually wills for us. If I pray for what God wills for me, I am asking God to bring out his plan in my life. If I have already decided what I want God to do for me and think of it as what God wishes – what I want God to give me – then I may not be asking for God’s plan for my life.
My advice about prayer is to just pray! God is always happy to hear from us and prayer is transformative for we grow in prayer when God moves towards us. In time our wishes bend to God’s will, our intimacy with God will deepen and while we may not yet become angels, we may come a few steps closer.
Paulist Father Paul Robichaud CSP is Historian of the Paulist Fathers and Postulator of the Cause of Father Hecker. His office is located at the Hecker Center in Washington D.C.