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Prayer, Christian


In Christianity, prayer is the acknowledgment of God as the source of all goodness and therefore the Supreme Being who can meet human need and longing. In one sense, prayer is a cry for help, and it also is an admission of man's dependency upon God. Christian prayer, exemplarily, should be a prayer in Christ, sharing in the prayer of the son to the Father through the Spirit, who in prayer exposes our greatest need (cf. Romans 8:14-27). There is a paradox lying at the heart of Christian prayer: God is known both ineffably and as a One who looks upon the people with fatherly love.

The ideal Christian prayer then is Jesus' prayer to his father, joyful, intimate, trusting, and obedient; the pattern is the prayer that he gave to his disciples, the Lord's Prayer. This prayer moves from adoration of the Father, through surrendering to his will, to petitioning for sustenance, recognizing the need for his forgiveness in the darkness of the world, and finally crying for deliverance.

It is said by some, that the prayer of Christ is the fulfillment of the prayer of God's chosen people, Israel, and so the Psalms, which express the joy and thankfulness, the longing and the need for forgiveness of those who live within God's covenant of love, become a fundamental expression of Christian prayer, especially in the development of the daily round of prayer, sanctifying time, called the divine office. Outside the liturgy, individual prayer is realized by short, repeated prayer, or by the cherishing of a "still center" through contemplation which then unconsciously suffuses life. The supreme expression of Christian prayer, the prayer of the children of God united within the Son of God, is the Eucharist, an act of thanksgiving, adoration, penitence, and pleading, in which all the longing and concern of the people of God is caught up in Christ's sacrifice of love to his Father. A.G.H.


Sources:

Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 763