P. LARRAÑAGA: AND YOU...HOW DO YOU PRAY?
Speaking with the initiator and the maintainer of "experiences of God."
And how do you pray?
Question difficult to answer. I have always been reluctant to demonstrations of this kind. I begin by confessing to him that it is not much time when I began to take life with God seriously: about twenty years. There are not many, as you see, but, looking back, the road seems so long to me, and, on its way, so many things happened ... There was everything: long periods of aridity in which God was persistent silence then suffered from discouragement and impatience, he suffered a lot; times of normality; moments of glory for which it was worth waiting for an eternity, and that were marked in my soul as a scar of light that is still illuminating my route. There was everything.
At a certain time in my life, experiences were given in me, I understand that of an infused nature, of the love and tenderness of God the Father. Since then, my usual relationship - not always - in prayer, is with the Father and, as a consequence, the fundamental attitude of my soul has been that of abandonment. And so also, the central message that I try to leave in the Encounters is that of the happy news of God's tenderness, and the inner attitude, by the way, deeply liberating that I try to instill, is that of abandonment.
What do I pray for? There are days when due to scattering factors or what is not known, I need support such as a phrase, as a repeated jaculatory. I often pray writing.
There are days when, because it is not known that imponderables (biological processes ?, climatic influences ?, telluric emanations?) I get nothing. In those days - not so frequent - I have to settle for patiently making a quiet and attentive reading of the Word.
Tell us something about the “encounters of God”
I could tell you that in a way, these Encounters sprouted spontaneously, almost surprisingly, otherwise like many things in my life. I will explain myself.
At that time, I am talking about fifteen years ago, there were ecclesiastical environments in which I moved so much confusion, such a degree of secularism that was openly underestimated, and often even despised, prayerful activity.
Everything that was not human promotion, was simply disqualified with the famous word alienation (by the way, word invented by Marx). I remember that seminar of students of theology, whose inscription appeared one day at the door of the chapel: "Here is the school of alienation." Life with God, in the clerical media, had suffered an almost vertical decline while the seminars were emptying, many left the priesthood and piety was completely shipwrecked. He was in such a way absolutizing the relative and relativizing the absolute that I understood that the time had come to shout as in ancient times: Remember, Israel, there is no other God but Yahweh God.
On the other hand, in those years, it had happened in my life, I don't know how to say anything similar to a special divine intervention in which everything questions you and challenges you, in that everything creaks and values rise and fall, in short, an event. At that time I retired to the mountains, at least one day a week, and the means of communication that I used to deal with the Lord were the prophets -Isaiah preferably- and the Psalms. If you asked me about my training, I would say that I somehow feel formed in the mountains, with the prophets.
Now, how many are they, where are these prayer teachers? How many Christians, when they feel the need to walk deep inside of God, look for a priest?
I am in a position to inform you of a painful fact that I myself have witnessed and that no one can deny it, namely: the great capitals of the American continent are full of Buddhist gurus, masters of transcendental meditation, imported from Ceylon, Pakistan, of the India or Japan. And when people feel an inner restlessness and desires of transcendence they always look for this kind of teacher.
And this is a huge disappointment to the Church: where are those churchmen who are able to take a thirsty group of God and lead him evolutionarily and steadfastly on God's ways? And if this is not done, all the rest is to go around the branches and out of orbit. In the end we end up in a matter of identity principle: who or what am I? I know all too well that to these questions and challenges the ecclesiastics know how to respond with a string of rationalizations and a torrent of words. But, after all, they don't stop being that: a lot of words.
I am not, as you can imagine, pointing guilty but phenomena. I know that nobody is to blame; because this emptiness of teachers of life in the Church, comes, I think, from far away, and basically –as I understand- of the same clerical formation: a remarkably rationalist formation in which God is transformed into an abstract entity and a game of words. In front of the innume
And you that move so much in the American continent, what, in your opinion, is the most urgent need in the churches of Latin America?
I will answer you lapidary. That of linking contemplation and commitment. Steps are being taken in this regard but we are still far from the goal.
On the one hand, the prayer had been little compromised: those who identified the prayerful activity with evasion were not far from the truth. The contemplative dimension of Jesus is a spectacular and questioning evangelical fact: I have come across more than twenty evangelical texts where we are told that Jesus always retired only generally at night and almost always to a mountain or retired place. I will tell you more: if we stick to the Gospel texts, Jesus rarely appears attending the temple or synagogue liturgy while the external characteristics of his prayer are, rather, those of an Anacoreta. In any case, the contemplative dimension of Jesus emerges as a prominent summit.
But if this fact is remarkable, there is another fact in the life of Jesus even more explosive and challenging: his preferential, almost exclusive, delivery to all the forgotten and abandoned of the society of his time. Faced with an eminently classist society, dominated by the Puritans, leguleyos and formalists of the Sanhedrin, Jesus, with great scandal of those, left preferably with the exploited and sinners, delivering their message and attention, not exclusive more preferably. It is a disturbing fact that it is there as a city of light on high claiming us, questioning us, urging us to take a position, with a rudder, in favor of the latter, long before Medellin and Puebla would challenge us with their insistence. The question is one: look at Jesus Christ and act according to this model.
The following impression floats in our environments: Believing that conservatives pray a lot and commit little, and progressives commit a lot and pray little. It is possible that there is a real background in these statements.
Too many believers and for too long they have made prayer an empty and sterile task, supplying and satisfying their emotionality, without compromising with those with whom Jesus was committed. And, in the other angle. The so-called liberationists for too long have dismissed supernatural values and prayer; and, in such a way, they have extolled earthly realities and human promotion that, at times, we had the impression that God's new name was man.
In the name of Jesus who linked the two extremes indissolubly, it was time to make a sustained effort to unite contemplation and struggle in a single yoke.
A few words, why do you pray and why don't you pray?
There are many people - I think a large majority of the Christian people - who pray for favors in their needs, and only remember to pray when they are caught in a contingency. There is no doubt that this habit - despite being an evangelical recommendation - is the least pure way of praying. One of the great merits of the charismatic Renewal is having introduced the "selfless" prayer of praise into the people.
There is another group of people who pray in times of distress and inner distress, seeking peace in God, because they know from experience that only God is the seat of rest.
There are people, too, who pray because they cannot live without God. They are those who received, as a congenital predisposition of personality, a remarkable thirst for God, an irresistible attraction and nostalgia for God, which makes them seek the Lord almost inevitably throughout their days. I do not know if this is grace or is nature. I tend to think that it is about nature: just as there are people who were born with an extraordinary sensitivity to music, others have been born with a particular sensitivity to the transcendent: special divine grace but inserted in genetic constitution. This kind of people may have setbacks and relapses, but they will always rise in search of the face of the Lord, driven by the divine "instinct."
All these groups of prayers, somehow and implicitly, seek themselves in God. I understand that the Churches must be a People of Worshipers in spirit and truth, who seek God in themselves and for themselves, with no other use than to recognize and claim their existence, sovereignty and love.
Why don't you pray? Surely there must be in this fact a great complexity of coincidences. But the observation of life has led me to the conclusion that the main reason for this fact is the following: the disproportion between efforts and results, and when I say “results” (thus, in quotes) I do not mean transformative effects of prayer on life but on the perception or sensitive experimentation of the act of praying.
Prayer being a convergence between grace and nature, and being pure grace free and pure nature instability, the "results" of the prayerful activity will necessarily be unpredictable and not always the human efforts will correspond to the assistance of grace.
And, as we are accustomed to the laws of speed and efficiency (so much action, so much reaction; for that reason, such an effect ...) people start to get discouraged when they see that the "results" do not correspond to the efforts, it comes a time when everything seems so disproportionate and irrational that, little by little, he is "losing faith" in all this, and ends up completely abandoning serious life with God.
Another factor is the fear of God, as we said above, fear of compromise, fear that the Lord God, with the tip of the finger, can begin to question itself in all areas ... and for that fear, people prefer to stay at a certain distance from so scary an interlocutor.
Name of the weekly: Austral
Name of the article: P. Larrañaga: And how do you pray?
Publication date: 1988, second week of March
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