Welcome, surfers, to the Neodecaussade blog. In this installment we will pick up from the Pew Forum survey results that show most Catholics feel that God rarely answers their prayers.
Question wording: [IF PRAY MORE THAN SELDOM, ASK:] How often do you receive a definite answer to a specific prayer request — would you say at least once a week, once or twice a month, several times a year, seldom, or never?
The Pew Forum question was asked to all survey participants who reported to pray more often than just seldom. Does God provide a “definite” answer to a “specific” prayer request? Is this a fair question? Out of 8054 Catholic survey participants 8% refused to answer the question. If you are a person who prays more than just seldom, why would you refuse to answer the question? Perhaps they know something that others do not? This is for you, dear surfer, to decide.
The question is entirely biased, focused on some orthodoxy of religion that some would completely reject. John Shelby Spong told us that “the opening phrase of the Apostles Creed speaks first of God as the ‘Father Almighty’.” Spong believes this is a cultural definition that limits God. Is this the orthodoxy that lies behind the question? In the book “Why Christianity Must Change or Die” Spong included a chapter called “The Meaning of Prayer in a World with No External Deity.” In there he tells us that “no longer do I privately make my prayer requests by storming the gates of heaven, where God supposedly dwells to direct the intimate affairs of my world.” Perhaps those who answered the Pew Forum question did just that? They stormed the gates of heaven with the expectation that God would direct their worldly intimate affairs? What about you? Is that how you pray? What expectation do you have for answers to your prayers? Do you limit God by belief in a creed that defines God in narrow ways? Spong did tell us that “prayer is the recognition that holiness is found in the center of life and that it involves the deliberate decision to seek to live into that holiness by modeling it and giving it away.”
Enter Jean-Pierre de Caussade. According to Jean-Pierre de Caussade, [the] “heart may be said to be the interpreter of God’s word. Listen to the heart, it interprets his will in everything that happens.” To say that this is an easy process would not be fair to you, dear surfer. Jean-Pierre de Caussade explains that you must be “experienced in the skill and practice of sanctity,” which is to say it takes time. Just a Spong points to, you need to make a deliberate decision to seek holiness. What do you want from God? What do you want from religion? Perhaps if you give up those old narrow views of what other people have told you God is and begin your own search this concept will be clearer.
Warning: “[S]ouls find themselves at a loss in this state, (acting on intuition and faith in all things) without the help of the insight or discrimination which used to giude and direct all they did… But it is in this very loss that they rediscover everything.” Jean-Pierre de Caussade.
Spong, de Caussade, St. John of the Cross, etc., all discuss the fact that you must be willing to give everything away to gain God’s grace. Perhaps if you give away your notion of what prayer is, it will start you on the path. Those 8% of survey respondents got it right. You make the call.