For me, the first activity of every new school year involves helping facilitate a leadership day for seniors. They listen to a variety of talks, attend Mass, eat pizza, and write a senior prayer. Unlike previous years, this year I was responsible for guiding the twenty-five or so students in constructing this prayer.
At the beginning, we brainstormed how we wanted to address God. Then, we made a list of what would make up the bulk of our prayer: thanksgiving, petition, adoration, etc. Finally, the part that took the longest was organizing these ideas and deciding which ones were closest to their hearts.
When you are dealing with twenty-five individuals, it takes a while to figure out what is most important. During this time of discussion, they were attempting to narrow down what matters to them specifically as a class.
Then, this brief exchange happened and it struck me as pretty important.
One student said, “Guys, remember, this prayer is about us.” And while I knew what the person meant, I replied, “Actually, the prayer is about God.”
Prayer is a conversation and so, yes, in that way, prayer is about us. Yet I think too often we forget that prayer is primarily about God. We are seeking to enter into relationship with Him by responding to the graces that He is already pouring out upon us. In prayer, we recognize our dependency and our littleness while praising the Lord’s majesty. We acknowledge our wrongdoing and beg for His mercy. Prayer involves us, but it shouldn’t be all about us.
Over the past few years, I’ve come to develop a distaste for Mass songs that are all about us. Sure, God is mentioned, but too many songs spend too much time singing about us. Several are on theologically shaky ground and others just aren’t beautiful. I don’t go to Mass to sing about my greatness or how birds gather together. Instead, the Sacrifice of the Mass is about offering ourselves to God and receiving His self-gift. Our hymns should reflect this with God-focused songs instead of ones that tend to be navel gazing.
God is not far and distant, but sometimes we overcompensate by placing Him on the exact same footing as us. Jesus is fully human, yet He is also fully divine. He calls us to approach Him as a friend, as a lover even. However, we should never be fooled into thinking that the power is divided equally between both parties.
He is the Lord. He is self-sufficient and independent in ways we can never fathom. We need Him. We need prayer. It is our source of life and a stream of living water in the desert. Prayer is about God and how He comes to be with us. God cares deeply about what impacts us, regardless of how little. Yet He doesn’t seek encounter in order to become more like us, but rather to transform us more into Himself.