Prayer seems to me to be the water of the heart. I can’t really imagine that, however damaged we might be, however estranged from what makes us human, we don’t find that our longings, our terrors, at some time bring us out beyond our own ability to cope, to comprehend, even. In that, there is prayer, impossible though it may be for some of us to name it.
The trouble is, I’ve too often found myself stuck in definitions of prayer that depend upon a model of God’s relationship with humanity that no longer works for me. In God’s own self, God is. I am frail, temporary, contingent. The connecting strand is God’s mercy, not any act or presumption of my own.
There is something that connects us, to God and to each other, and to all of creation, that Quakers describe as “that of God in everyone.” The light in the eyes of another human, in the eyes of an animal too, that beauty that is there in life, and which ceases so certainly in death – that is pure gift, the creature’s own entire and precious isness, a little fleck of the istigkeit of God. Perhaps there are a very few in any age who know this so perfectly that they become so caught up in that shared quality of being that they are somehow more than, and yet most fully, human. Perhaps Christ is that identity new-born, a bridge where a ferry used to be. Prayer that is the heart’s true voice will cause that bridge to spring into being, the indwelling Christ born within the human heart, whatever name it might know him by.
I think that inside all true prayer there is a core of silence. We may be aware of crying out to God, railing against God, imploring or denying God; and yet deep inside there is the unknowing, the contact of the speechless with the indescribable. Maybe silence is the truest prayer. The words are just our way of telling ourselves about it, however we may intend them. If God is God, then there are no secrets between us (Romans 8.26-27), and words are neither needed nor possible, in the end.