Editor’s Be aware: This story has been current.
In recent months, we are hearing more about the affect and potential threat of AI (Synthetic Intelligence) on our modern society. These are the latest incarnation of fears expressed around the earlier century in excess of the increase of devices and know-how.
Even though one particular might argue above the legitimacy of these kinds of technological threats, it is hard to deny the predominance of the “technological paradigm” that flows from the fast increase of engineering and mechanization in our tradition.
Secular authors have written about the “technological paradigm” and the recent popes have also spoken about it. Pope Francis writes that “this paradigm exalts the notion of a issue who, working with reasonable and rational techniques, progressively techniques and gains regulate above an exterior item. This subject makes each effort to establish the scientific and experimental approach, which in alone is now a procedure of possession, mastery and transformation” (Laudato Si, 106).
The challenge is not as substantially with technology by itself but the frame of mind it engenders, one that relies closely on process, approach and technique to attain handle of produced actuality.
The French philosopher Jacques Ellul wrote extensively about the challenge of the reliance on strategy and this technological way of thinking, most famously in his operate translated as The Technological Society. He describes the modern propensity to pragmatically lessen every little thing to a procedure or approach as a signifies to achieve a sure end. It can be seen in economics, business and administration, and with human strategy used to issues these kinds of as drugs and human optimization. Approaches are applied in get to insure effectiveness and the producing of final results.
About my many years as a priest, especially in doing spiritual route, I have witnessed how this “technical mindset” has motivated the non secular lifestyle of lots of Catholics, primarily when it arrives to prayer. It has turn out to be such a part of the social imaginary that we do not even comprehend how it can creep into our non secular life.
We’re continuously looking for an straightforward, foolproof strategy to expand in our romantic relationship with God. In fashionable parlance, we locate ourselves hunting for a “prayer hack” that will assistance us to optimize our prayer life. We motivation a strategy or a how-to guide, wondering that if we just stick to the methods and stick to the approach, we will come to be authorities at prayer.
The English Carmelite Sister Ruth Burrows has published extensively about the temptation to minimize prayer to strategy. She suggests:
“Most of us come across it just about impossible not to think of prayer as a exclusive activity in existence: an art that can be taught or uncovered somewhat as we can learn to participate in a musical instrument. … We sense there are particular rules governing prayer, and strategies to be mastered, and, when we have bought keep of these, we can pray.”
Prayer here is noticed as an exercise — like taking part in golf, cooking a roast or knitting a sweater. We can master the simple techniques, master the method and acquire management over the end result.
We lookup for solutions in prayer, but Sister Ruth suggests we also seem for authorities who can teach us the art of prayer:
“Thus we search around for the expert, for the just one who has mastered the artwork and its tactics, and eagerly glimpse to be taught. When we acquire up a book or short article on prayer, we shall likely detect, if we prevent to consider, that we are seeking for the vital, the magic components that is heading to put our prayer right, enable us to ‘make a go’ of this mysterious exercise identified as prayer. We may possibly experience that others seem to be to choose it in their stride but by some means it does not function for us and anxiously we glimpse hither and thither for anyone who will hand us the secret.”
What lies driving this tendency to cut down prayer to approach? At its basis, it is a drive to regulate the end result of our prayer and exert command in excess of our spiritual life and, in some way, in the long run around God. This is an even larger sized temptation in our globe wrought on by chaos and confusion. It is a way to grasp for certainty and to bring “order” to our life. It is a grasping for ability (and even a type of magical pondering) in a entire world where by we come to feel powerless and missing in agency.
So if prayer is not an exercise and it simply cannot be decreased to a “technique,” then how can we have an understanding of what the essence of prayer is?
Sister Ruth explains that “prayer is not a system but a relationship that there is no handicap, no obstacle, no trouble. The only difficulty is that we do not want God. We may want a ‘spiritual everyday living,’ we may well want ‘prayer,’ but we do not want God. All any individual can do for us, any expert can instruct us, is to keep our eyes on Jesus.”
It is an face with the Residing God and an entering into a daily life-providing partnership with him. It is not primarily about what we do or what we offer you, but our fundamental openness and receptivity to the Lord.
Sister Ruth writes:
“On our aspect prayer is simply just currently being there: open up, uncovered, inviting God to do all God needs. Prayer is not our exercise, our receiving in touch with God, our coming to grips with or producing ourselves fascinating to God. We can do none of these things, nor do we need to have to, for God is there all set to do everything for us, loving us unconditionally.”
To genuinely enter into prayer, “we have to recognize that what we have to do is permit ourselves to be loved, to be there for Enjoy to really like us. “Prayer is just permitting ourselves be cherished by God. It is about becoming with him and making it possible for him to delight over us. Sister Ruth all over again:
“Once we have grasped the accurate mother nature of prayer we will not need a lot of instruction about how to comport ourselves. There are no tactics to discover. … All my issue is that God should really have what he needs: the prospect to be very good to me to his heart’s material.”
Approach poses a danger to reliable relationships. It prohibits us from certainly encountering the other individual. It can mediate the partnership and act as a barrier imposed between two persons. In the prayer daily life it can guide us to “saying prayers” alternatively of actually praying. It decreases it to an action, some thing that we have to accomplish. It can lead us to just “checking off the bins.”
There is also a chance of prayer becoming “standardized” — if we all undertake a related technique then it ruins each person’s unique encounter with God in prayer. In addition, it tends to change our romance with God into something transactional — we enter these prayers and assume a specific end result. It can breed a perception of entitlement, and if we don’t get the benefits we hope, it can breed disappointment and resentment. At worst, it can act as a kind of manipulation.
As we use strategy to attain handle in excess of our setting, we can come across ourselves using system in an effort to manipulate God. This all potential customers to the temptation in relying as well heavily on a method, or viewing prayer as an exercise, and we can end up feeding our ego as a substitute of seeking God.
What lies at the heart of this tendency to cut down prayer to a approach? I feel panic lies at the heart. A panic of failure in contemplating that if I adopt this approach I will be assured of achievements in the non secular lifetime. A concern of the vulnerability that arrives with certainly exposing our hearts to Christ in prayer. A panic of the unknown and a want to explain absent the mystery of the spiritual life. And eventually a worry of permitting go of control and getting to embrace what God could request of us.
And this performing out of fear prospects to so a lot avoidable panic and exhaustion. It can breed scrupulosity and perfectionism in an attempt to “pray flawlessly.” And when outcomes really don’t arrive (or when they really don’t come promptly more than enough) we turn into frustrated and disappointed. This can guide to rumination and stress. This is the opposite of the relaxation we are called to discover in our encounter with Christ in prayer.
Having said that, I do not want to counsel that recourse to a process is inherently undesirable. There is a prosperous part of our Catholic religious custom, these kinds of as the Ignatian Spiritual Physical exercises, that undertake strategies to aid us to put together our hearts for prayer. But as Sister Ruth properly reminds us, often these procedures can be “used as a substitute for prayer. There is the risk of preserving ourselves from God’s motion by the control we are exerting in striving to be ‘empty and passive.’”
“We have to study to distinguish concerning creating use of a assist and of substituting the guidance for prayer. Retaining our deepest heart exposed, refusing to usurp God’s place by earning ourselves the agent, the giver, will indicate that, most generally, we have no feeling of acquiring prayed effectively or acquiring prayed at all.”
We should resist the tendency to enable the system to become a substitute for a legitimate come upon with God in prayer.
In summary, Sister Ruth splendidly describes the prayer lifestyle we are referred to as to by likening it to sailing on the sea. Dread leads us to want to clutch the wheel and sustain regulate of the boat, but she suggests, “we have to be eager to let go of our have criterion of what prayer is and what progress in the Spirit may possibly suggest.
There are all kinds of approaches of praying and there are publications galore to immediate us on them still these, at base, retain us in the boat. The boat may well rock a little bit and sense awkward at occasions but at the very least, with our strategy to guideline us, we can man it and have some control.
Authentic prayer allows go of the controls, or, far more truly, it lets go when they are wrenched absent from us — and how typically we practical experience this, even to getting tipped out in a squall. Oh dear! Most of us see this as an regrettable event that ought to by no means be repeated and so we refit our boat and boost our sailing capabilities to ensure that we have manage at the time additional.”
The journey of prayer is permitting go of management and technique and making it possible for the Spirit to guide us into the deep!
Father Bryce Sibley is a priest of the Diocese of Lafayette. In 2010 he was appointed as pastor and chaplain at Our Woman of Wisdom Church and Catholic University student Centre on the campus of the College of Louisiana at Lafayette where he served for 11 yrs. He now serves as affiliate professor of ethical theology and non secular director at Notre Dame Seminary.