Part 18 in a series; see other parts here.
So much of prayer feels like a lover’s quarrel, hashing out a messy but committed relationship. Love provides the foundation, but manifests as struggle. Like any relationship, ours with God has its ups and downs. But oh how high are the highs! With feet on the ground and arms raised to the heavens, our souls, in ecstatic elevation, can mingle with the rich fires of star-birthing nebulae or rise with the morning fog as it clears out of a cold spring canyon.
In prayer, we work with delicate fervor toward union with God. Driven by burgeoning love, and believing that God requites us, we yearn for the moment of consummation. In rare moments we feel it, our bodies trembling as the throes of love overcome us. Pulled into the darkness of a light so bright we can hardly bear it, the flood of thoughts, tormenting or otherwise, that brought us to prayer finally subsides, and in body and spirit we become present to God, exploding with spiritual fire.
The prospect of prayerful bliss brings desire into play. Do we ever yearn for God with a kind of physical hunger? Do we ever ache for God like we do for a dear one who is, alas, away? Do we ever pursue God in prayer with a lover’s earnest ardor? Do we ever wait receptively for God as we might for an imminently arriving beloved? Does God’s grip on our souls ever leave us restless at night, tormented with desire? Do we ever wander distracted through our days, beset with prayers of delicious confusion?
Bliss erupts from the swelling music of such tensions, but the climactic intensification of spiritual pleasure can’t be called down at will, so all we can do is cultivate the desire. Prayer provides the means for learning what we want more deeply than anything else. There is no finer education in desire than prayer, with all its false starts and frustrations. By helping us discover what we, at the very roots of ourselves, desire, God shows us who we are. Then, when we see ourselves through the eyes of a God who loves us with a very literal Passion, what can we do but collapse in ecstasies of bliss?