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ready, a Church without religion. Some coercive and excluding power is indispensable, wherever faith in its integrity, or life in its purity, would be vindicated or sustained."
How God Answers Prayer
REV. LAIRD WINGATE SNELL
ARON von Hügel, in his study of St. Catherine of
Genoa, dwells repeatedly on the point that when the Christian saints speak of God as doing this or that for them they do not mean that God does these things without them-independently of their own wills or activity. So also the saints hold that the works of love or power they themselves do are not their own works but the Father working in them. This relation in the lives of those who are sanctified between Deity and self is that of a wonderful inter-dependence of wills,-God not effective without them, they not effective without God,-a blending and interpenetration of the divine and human wills, such that one is not found save in closest combination with the other, nor can either be distinguished or any line drawn enabling one to say, Here see the activity of the divine will, here see the human,-so intimate an inter-dependence and inter-relationship of two entities as are probably not to be found elsewhere in human experience.
It is probably well within the truth to say that, as for the ordinary human being, he does not know what the saints and mystics are talking of when they speak so definitely and confidently of God working through them; as for the modern psychologist or man of science, he, as a rule, is more than skeptical-quite bluntly positive that, even if such a thing were possible, the saint or mystic
could have no means of knowing whether God wrought through him, whether all were his own activity, or whether some unknown agency like the "sub-liminal mind" were welling up within; and, as for the "liberal Christian," the writer has heard a theological professor of this school declare that it is immoral-the denial of individual responsibility, the breaking up of the foundations of conscience -to believe that the will of God can and does control one. The simple answer to all three classes is, Try it and see! The ordinary human being, if he will try it, will find that the Christian experience is a perfectly definite thing, that springs from and issues in perfectly definite beliefs, and grounds heart and mind and will in confident, positive convictions. The man of science, if he will proceed as he does in a scientific investigation,-accept the hypothesis of the Christian faith, and then give it honest, thorough testing,-will discover an inward-working power of moral transformation, a far-reaching plan, a detailed guidance, a personal care, for which nothing but the Christian hypothesis will account. If the thinker, likewise, will make sufficient trial of the faith and practice of the saints, he will find that there is a power that does increasingly and most definitely control him, which is a power above and beyond himself that can only be called God; but that its control so enlists his own will, so illumines and sensitizes his conscience, so fulfils the self in God-chosen and self-chosen, God-motived and self-motived activity, as to be the very crown, the ultimate attainment, of the free moral life of his responsible, individual personality.
The will of God and the will of man, the Christian experience reveals, can blend and become one without the finite will losing its identity or its free activity in the infinite. How this can be we may grant is a mystery. Why it is so is plain,—in the light of Christian truth. It is
God's purpose that the sons of men should become sons of God; and this possibility of the blending and uniting of the human will with the divine is man's capacity for divine sonship, for partaking of the divine nature, for becoming conformed to the divine likeness. That men may indeed become sons of God-divine, God has made them responsible creators: within definite limits they make their own world, shape themselves and their environment, are moulders of life and destiny. And within these limits God leaves men free; within these limits the operation of God's own will is conditioned by the wills of men; in the field of human creatorship God the Father wills that His purposes shall await the activity and co-operation of those who are becoming His sons. The aeonian lesson men have to learn to become sons, the divinely distant goal they are set to attain as responsible creators, is that they become colaborers together with Him, that their free creative activity shall be joint-creation with God-that and wholly that.
Here, in the realm God has allotted man's freedom, the realm of human creatorship, is the field of prayer; here prayer performs its two-fold function. On the one hand, it progressively harmonizes and blends the will of him who prays with the will of God. On the other hand, prayer is the human will through its union with the divine operating as a cause to shape and direct along the lines of God's own creative purposes the activities of men.
Prayer provides the primary condition for attuning the life of the individual to harmony with God-which is sanctification. Santification, of course, is God's own work,the office of the Holy Ghost. Prayer is the opening of the door, and keeping the door open, to the Sanctifier; prayer is the soul's share in the process of its own remaking; prayer is soul-travail to continual soul-rebirths, till it be built up in all things into Christ.
It is far from being the belief of the day, but is nevertheless the fact, that the great Catholic saints, from St. Paul down, have been the most complete of men, after their Lord and Master, that the world has seen. They have been "complete in Him," and that completeness has centered in the identification of their wills-and therefore their lives-with His. And the primary factor to the completeness of the saints has been prayer. Not the sole factor, nor the factor by itself adequate. For the difference between Catholic sainthood and sainthood outside the Catholic fellowship is that for the shaping of the former, in addition to the factor of prayer, there has been the dynamically formative factor of the Church's life. To this is due the completeness, the balance, the joyous freedom, the rational restraint, and the mystical power withal, of Catholic sainthood. Yet prayer is the primary factor unto sanctification in all their lives and all through their lives.
Prayer for the saints-is simply fellowship with the divine Spirit, "the practice of the presence of God," "abiding in Christ as the branch in the Vine;" it is "with unveiled fate reflecting as a mirror the image of the Lord," and being thereby "changed into the same image from glory to glory." For this reason the saints in their prayers make little of petition, much of meditation and contemplation. Their aim in prayer is sanctification-instant responsiveness to every motion of the Holy Ghost, to have literally no will save to will God's will, to "love the Lord their God with all their heart, and with all their soul, and with all their mind, and with all their strength;" this is the goal of mystical practice and exercise. To its attainment the old-time saints and mystics gave themselves with an abandon, an intensity, a single-mindedness, a carelessness of bodily comforts and worldly interests, which recent
generations can not only not understand but not even imagine. And the result was they were mighty men of God-men filled with power and with the Holy Ghost, men who shaped the Church and the generations.
Their surpassing value for humanity is the answer to the shallow criticism of this shallow age that the concern of the saints and mystics has been their own souls and not their fellowmen. There have indeed been Christian people of recent generations-especially of those whose thought was shaped by the various Calvinistic or Arminian schools of theology-whose unchristian concern was the salvation of their own souls. It is a note that is practically never sounded in the writings of the great saints and mystics. No more is there the note of morbid, unhealthy introspection that daily microscopic scrutinizing of the inward feelings, that hanging upon the uncertain ebb and flow of the emotional life-which has marked the mystics of Protestant Christianity. The intense, all-dominating concern of the Catholic saints for holiness found its motive in not the slightest degree in concern for their own souls. The state of their souls, as the state of their bodies, they had committed to God, and there they were wholly content to leave in trust both body and soul. Their passion for holiness was love of God: its spring was the sense of His ineffable beauty; its aim was to be like Him, because He is the One altogether loving, altogether lovely, and altogether loved. It is the part of love, when directed towards one that is better, nobler, higher, holier, passionately to desire to become like the loved one. To become, then, like God, with self-regard absolutely ruled out, is the meaning of the Catholic mystics' unquenchable hunger and thirst for holiness.
Yet behind this longing and endeavor for holiness because holiness is Godlikeness, lay always the clear knowl