Depending on PrayerDOUGLAS MCMANAMAN
The first sin of man, from which he needed to be redeemed, was fundamentally a rejection of his status as “child”.
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is of course a symbolic representation of the decision to taste independence from God, for only adults, who are independent, know the difference between good and evil. In relation to God, man is always and everywhere a child. But the heart of man pridefully soared to heights that exceed the limits of his fragile nature, since then, the heart quasi-naturally soars in the same direction.
But Christ came to return us to that humble status: “Unless you change and become as little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18, 3).
The problem, however, is that people tend to see this directive as quaint, poetic, and inevitably regard it much less radically than it ought to be. But childhood is characterized by dependence. Children are radically dependent; they ask for everything, they want help washing their hair, or help getting a glass of milk, they want so much help with their homework that our help can sometimes amount to doing it for them.
Indeed, part of parenting is teaching children to become more and more independent. Adolescence is characterized by a desire for greater independence, even though they depend heavily upon parents and the adult world. Young adulthood is marked by the illusion and arrogance of independence, but as we grow older, we should begin to rediscover how dependent we’ve always been on one another; for independence in relation to one another is entirely relative.
Independence in relation to God, however, is simply impossible. To seek it is to sin, to live it is a prideful and audacious lie. Depending upon God on occasion — spiritual adolescence — seems to be the norm. But God directs us to rely on Him for everything, to be carried along like royalty. Unlike the parent who is of the same nature as his or her offspring, God does not demand that we become increasingly self-reliant. To be fully human is to rely fully on God.
Growth in the spiritual life means learning to become more and more dependent on God. It means learning to pray for everything, all the time (1 Th 5, 17). As a child pesters his parents, we are directed to “pester” God: “…persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants” (Lk 11, 8). The difference is that God wants us to persist and harass, because He created us to provide us with an ever increasing share in the good: “For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. What father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread?” (Lk 11, 10-11)
Douglas McManaman. "Depending on Prayer". (2006).
Reprinted with permission of Douglas McManaman.
Douglas McManaman is a high school religion teacher with the York Catholic District School Board in Ontario. He is currently teaching at Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy in Markham, Ontario and maintains a web site, A Catholic Philosophy and Theology Resource Page, in support of his students. He studied Philosophy at St. Jerome's College in Waterloo, and Theology at the University of Montreal. Mr. McManaman is the past President of the Canadian Chapter of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars. He is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.
Copyright © 2006 Douglas McManaman
Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.