We had a fantastic faculty retreat here at the seminary recently, and I took copious notes. So know they will be bleeding into my blog now and again. Let me start with a teaser.
The retreat master was talking with us about prayer — a good retreat topic — and addressing the question of what constitutes a healthy and full prayer life as a Christian. He said something like this (as I furiously jotted down his insights in my notebook):
Prayer is really at core about fostering an intimate exchange between each person and God. It’s heart speaking to heart, a shared exchange of personal knowledge. Prayer is to know God and to allow oneself to be known by God. The first part we as priests can be really good at. We study, think, reflect and gain all kinds of relevant God-data. We can say we really know who God is. We know all about him and are experts who can speak eloquently and movingly about God and his ways. But can we really say that we really know God or that God really knows us? We might retort in regard to that second point: “God is omniscient! Of course God knows me. It’s a given.” Yes, yes. But is that it, really? Think about it. If I meet someone who’s never really spoken to me before, hasn’t told me about themselves or asked me personally anything about myself, or even shown any interest in really getting to know the living and breathing me; and suddenly they walk up to me and tell me they know me, know everything about me — and start sharing with me intimate details from my life. Well, I’m going to get creeped out. That’s creepy, right? But you see, Jesus isn’t a creep. He invites us to reveal ourselves to him in prayer, to share our hearts and minds and desires and frustrations. Everything. And he wants to do the same, and waits to see if we are interested. If you were God, how interested would you really look in what God had to say? How carefully, attentively, lovingly do you listen for his voice? And let me say, ask yourself this: If all God knew about you was what you shared with him in prayer, how well would he really know you? If you can’t say that God knows you — based on your self disclosure — at least as much as the person in your life who knows you best, then your prayer life is seriously deficient. Using divine omniscience to excuse ourselves from opening up to God, pouring out our hearts to him and speaking to him about all things, great and small, is a misuse of our theology of divine omniscience. Jesus stands at the door and knocks, but if we keep the door shut and locked, and sit curled up with our theology book on the couch as we bear our soul’s deepest secrets to a friend…well, Jesus may say, when we meet him one day: “I don’t know you.”