For those souls given to a belief in God and to the practice of praying to him, a difficult struggle inevitably undergone is that between faith and doubt. Even events that could be labeled unmistakably miraculous are subject to reinterpretation, and more so those events that on the surface seem to be answers to prayer but could be otherwise interpreted as coincidental or caused by less than divine intervention.
And that is precisely the journey of faith that prayer calls us to. Prayer by its very nature demands that we interpret our lives and experiences from the standpoint of faith. Events that turn out in accordance with our prayers are, by the very fact of prayer, placed in a framework which carries with it certain assumptions: God is real, he loves us so much he desires intimate involvement in our lives, and by such involvement he wishes to manifest to us his ever-vigilant care and providence. Any heart that casts forth its requests to God also puts itself in a position in which it will now view subsequent events in terms of God’s involvement.
When in the act of prayer, implicit faith is exhibited (if not explicit avowals of trust). And there is in the act of praying a certain confidence one can be given which further fuels one’s prayers. Indeed, it is perhaps not uncommon that the act of prayer itself draws forth faith and confidence, however weak and unstable. Prayer itself is that exercise of faith, and the more one prays, the more likely it is that one’s confidence in God may grow.
But there will inevitably come those seasons in prayer in which one’s faith is tested, and in which any weakness and instability will not only be made manifest but even magnified in the face of such testing. No longer does one possess the gift of faith given in other seasons. Rather, one hauls oneself before God, often with very little faith, perhaps just enough to haul oneself before God, and then rests on the faith of Christ and his Church.
In fact, more painfully, one may be so afflicted with a seeming lack of faith that one fails to pray day after day. Even here, one may be held aloft by Christ’s own faith and that of the Church. For though we be faithless, he is faithful for he cannot deny himself, and once we have been incorporated bodily in his Church, by baptism and chrismation, we are his even when we deny him. He stands ever ready to receive us until, with our final breath, we solidify our destiny by choice. He stands ready, even until the eleventh hour to receive our repentance and our renewal of faith, when once we have contemplated the final end of the unrepentant and have contemplated his eternal love, and at last cast ourselves once more into his embrace.
It is in the day to day struggle, it is in the struggles of one’s life’s destiny, that we are called to faith, and that faith is both exemplified and fed by the simple turning to God in prayer. Prayer exhibits and draws forth faith.
And so, in prayer, we go to him, trusting his provision, his goodness, his love. Knowing that if we ask for a fish, he will not give us a snake, but will give us that fish, and, in fact, more. He will, truly, give us himself, satisfying both our dying mortal needs as well as the undying needs of our inner heart. Prayer shows us that we have nothing here on earth that will satisfy us, not even our own identity. What satisfies is nothing less than and nothing except Christ himself, who, in satisfying us, gives us back our selves and all those other penultimate things we desire.
This is the confidence we have before him in prayer: not that each minutiae of our desires will be answered in the particular (though he is not a God of torment, and will not refuse us those particular gifts that are for our strength and healing), but rather that each of our desires will be answered in Christ, who gives himself to us, and in himself all things.