Saint John Damascene's definition of prayer is well known.
"Prayer," he says, "is asking God for what is fitting." We must probe this thought thoroughly...
Prayer is an asking, but an asking of God, and consequently bears the impress of him to whom it is addressed. We can ask God only for what he wants us to ask of him, and he can will only what is conformable to his will. Now, since God is one of the "terms" of prayer — that is, we pray to him — and since he is infinite order, prayer is a request essentially "ordered," in other words, consonant with the order of God himself.
What is that order? It is what he is, [the One] from whom, by whom, and for whom all things are. He is our beginning and our end. He is the light of our mind and the strength of our will. He is truth, goodness, and beauty unalloyed, the source of all joy, and the ocean of all life.
What is "fitting," therefore — what we must ask God for — is himself; to be united with him, to be transformed in him; to possess him and to be possessed by him. We should ask to enter, by grace, into such intimate relations with him as unite us to him; to become his sons by a communication as complete as possible of his Spirit of love; to share in that joy and in that life which is his joy and his life — in short, to share in joy itself and life itself. The Scriptures are full of this prayer, which is constantly bubbling up like springs of water on a high mountain. The Lord is the portion of my inheritance, says the Psalmist. For what have I in heaven, and besides you what do I desire upon earth? You are the God of my heart, and my portion forever.
Dom Augustin Guillerand. "What do you wish?" from The Prayer of the Presence of God (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2005).
Reprinted with permission of Sophia Institute Press.
Dom Augustin Guillerand (1877-1945) was a French Carthusian monk who entered La Valsainte monastery in Switzerland in 1916. During the tumults of the 20th Century, Dom Augustin would become famous for his calm and peaceful demeanor and his spiritual teachings. He is the author of The Prayer of the Presence of God.Copyright © 2005 Sophia Institute Press
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