Dare I Be So Familiar?

Even men playing bagpipes are welcome here.

Just how casual can I be when I talk to God?

This question occurred to me just now. The liturgy is full of formal prayers that provide the gold standard for the way to address God in public gatherings, but when one is addressing Him one to one, is such formality necessary?

I looked to the Gospels for answers. God first came to us as a baby, the most welcome, and welcoming of all human forms. When he grew up, he adopted the most humble of miens, a wandering teacher, homeless, penniless, familiar with sorrow: a hobo.

He pointedly hung out with the bilge and dregs of society, scorning those rulers and the rich who were unable to come down to His level of Love.

St Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises labours the usefulness of our powers of imagination in thinking of God. He asks us to imagine being a bystander at various points in Jesus’s life: at the Nativity, at the Sermon on the Mount, or at the Crucifixion, for instance.

The human imagination is a powerful gift, and we all have it in varying degrees. From it all creative thought, and its consequences derive. By putting ourselves into the Gospel narrative, we “risk” being changed by insights and experiences gained there. The other thing we “risk” gaining is familiarity with Christ Himself.

When we have received the Grace of realising our own lowliness and wretchedness, it is good to be familiar with Him. The people He was closest to on earth were the lowly and wretched, and it is not too much to suppose that He will be close to us even now, in our honestly admitted  iniquity.

This Christmas, put yourself there in the stable, but in a lowly place. (You can be a fly on the wall if you want to!) Realise that that wee Babe has arrived there to save you and me and everyone else from a merely temporal and meaningless existence.

That Babe has bought us all eternal life.

Yes, I dare you to be familiar, with Him!

About Brother Burrito

A sinner who hopes in God's Mercy, and who cannot stop smiling since realizing that Christ IS the Way , the Truth and the Life. Alleluia!
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9 Responses to Dare I Be So Familiar?

  1. johnhenrycn says:

    If ‘n I was a deacon, I would be proud to deliver a homily like that. And just the right length, too!

    Well, I’m off to Confession at the Cathedral (in an adjoining diocese), so I won’t be back for quite awhile, if you catch my drift 😉

    In the meantime, a nice song from another wee bairn, who, unfortunately, unlike Our Lord, never grew up:


  2. James says:

    But what about prayer in public?

    I find the ‘spontaneous’ prayer at ‘ecumenical’ gatherings cringe-making. It’s like a whole unwritten subculture used to judge who’s ‘in’ and who’s ‘out’, as well as a platform for putting one’s own wishes and desires into the third-person to influence others. It seems to be more about performance in front of one’s peers than talking to God.

    Am I just being cynical and judgemental? But it (Lord just) seems so (just Lord, well just) inauthentic, particularly when they are so patronising towards us when they’re not (just) praying, too.


  3. Brother Burrito says:

    Yes, James,

    I find public freeform prayer cringe-making too, for all the same reasons.

    I think this is why good liturgy is so important, in the same way good public health advice is important.

    But when it is just you and Him, be yourself, in all your worthlessness.


  4. kathleen says:

    A lovely post Burrito!
    Yes, I’m sure Our Lord wants us to be ourselves in our relationship with Him. He wants neither a self righteous prideful attitude (remember the Pharisee and the Publican at prayer?) nor a cringing, false piety, or a formal one where only set prayers are used……. He knows even our innermost thoughts, and in fact He knows us better than we know ourselves, so any of this type of approach is just ridiiculous! Our prayer of communication to Our Lord should just be the sincere and open one of a loving child to its father. Did Jesus not tell us to call God “Abba” – Daddy? How could anything be closer or sweeter than that?


  5. Mimi says:

    Oh dear, Kathleen, now you’ve worried me. I tend to use set prayers, almost exclusively. Is that a less than optimal approach? On the other hand, I do mean every word of them, so maybe that makes it all right? Do you think Our Lord minds hearing the same prayers every day? That does bother me sometimes. I do occasionally make up my own prayers, but then they just become set prayers too through repetition. What would you advise?


  6. johnhenrycn says:

    Kathleen and Mimi both make valid points, and they are not contradictory. Our Catholic faith is full of precious, traditional set prayers: The Lord’s Prayer, Rosary, Angelus, Regina Caeli, Angele Die… and none say otherwise.

    …but, on the other hand, spontaneous prayer is essential. For example, in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius – the prayers have to be extempore, except for his Anima Christi, I guess; although even there, I have, in my personal prayer book, amended his third precatory to read:
    ” Blood of Christ, fill me”, because I have never been fond of his:
    “Blood of Christ, inebriate me”


  7. kathleen says:

    Dear Mimi, now you’ve worried me that I’ve worried you!! 😉 I am really sorry. There is nothing “formal” about you, and I really wasn’t referring to reciting ‘set prayers’ as being wrong – I use them most of the time too – only attitudes of formality in prayer that do not touch the mind and heart of the person. ‘Parrot talk’, you know.

    Many thanks to John Henry for a great answer to the dilemma. Yes, of course sincerely meant set prayers are sweet to the ears of the Lord. We use them because they represent all the love of our hearts…… but a little informal “chat” to God from time to time is good too. 🙂


  8. Mimi says:

    Thank you, Kathleen and John Henry, for relieving my mind. I am usually very much on guard against ‘parroting’, and I do chat to the Lord informally during the day (although not at prayer time, oddly!), so I guess I’ll just stick with what works. Thanks for your help and a very merry Christmas to you both — and to all on CP&S!


  9. James says:

    Thank you, Br Burrito.


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