October 25, 2012
Prayers in the Old Testament
This is the start of the section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on Prayer. The section reviewed today looked at prayer in general, and prayer as seen in the Old Testament.
The Church requires that faithful Catholics maintain a vital and personal relationship with God; “This relationship is prayer.” 2558 “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God, or the requesting of good things from God. Humility is the foundation of prayer. Only when we humbly acknowledge that we do not know how to pray as we ought are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer.2559 It is he who first seeks us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him. 2560 Whether prayer is expressed in words or gestures, it is the whole man who prays. But in naming the source of prayer, Scripture speaks sometimes of the sour or the spirit, but most often the heart. According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays.” 2562
“Even after losing through his sin his likeness to God, man remains an image of his Creator, and retains the desire for the one who calls him into existence. All religions bear witness to men’s essential search for God. The living and true God tirelessly calls each person to that mysterious encounter known as prayer. In prayer, the faithful God’s initiative of love always comes first; our own first step is always a response. 2566-7 In his indefectible covenant with every living creature, God has always called people to prayer. But it is above all beginning with our father Abraham that prayer is revealed in the Old Testament.” 2569
“Abraham’s heart is entirely submissive to the Word. Such attentiveness of the heart is essential to prayer. Abraham’s prayer is expressed first by deeds … only later does Abraham’s first prayer in words appear. One aspect of the drama of prayer appears from the beginning: the test of faith in the fidelity of God. 2570 Once God had confided his plan, Abraham’s heart is attuned to his Lord’s compassion for men and he dares to intercede for them with bold confidence. 2571 Abraham is asked to sacrifice the son God had given him, (but) Abraham’s faith does not weaken. … Prayer restores man to God’s likeness and enables him to share in the power of God’s love that saves the multitude.” 2572
When God speaks to Moses, “here again the initiative is God’s. From the midst of the burning bush he calls Moses. … Only after long debate does Moses attune his own will to that of the Savior God. (Over the years, ) Moses converses with God often and at length. From this intimacy with the faithful God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, Moses drew strength and determination for his intercession. He does not pray for himself but for the people whom God made his own. 2575-7
David is par excellence the king after God’s own heart, the shepherd who prays for his people and prays in their name. His submission to the will of God, his praise, and his repentance, will be a model for the prayer of the people.” 2579 The catechism in paragraphs 2581-4 tells of the prayers of Elijah, as described in 1 Kings. It describes how through his prayer the widow’s child is brought back to life, and how Elijah, like Moses hid in a cleft in the rock until “the mysterious presence of God has passed by.”
“From the time of David to the coming of the Messiah texts appearing in these sacred books show a deepening in prayer for oneself and in prayer for others. Thus the psalms were gradually collected into the five books of the Psalter (or Praises), the masterwork of prayer in the Old Testament. 2585 The Psalms both nourished and expressed the prayer of the People of God gathered during the great feasts at Jerusalem and each Sabbath in the synagogues. Prayed by Christ and fulfilled in him, the Psalms remain essential to the prayer of the Church. 2587 The Psalms are a mirror of God’s marvelous deeds in the history of his people, as well as reflections of the human experiences of the Psalmist. Though a given psalm may reflect an event of the past, it still possesses such direct simplicity that it can be prayed in truth by men of all times and conditions. 2588 The Psalms constitute the masterwork of prayer in the Old Testament. They present two inseparable qualities: the personal, and the communal. They extend to all dimensions of history, recalling God’s promises already fulfilled and looking for the coming of the Messiah.” 2596
Next week we’ll do the lessons intended for October 23 and 30, the remaining articles of Chapter 1 on Prayer, and all of Chapter 2. They will move on to the New Testament prayers, and especially those of Jesus and his apostles, and then onto how we practice today what the Bible has shown us.