Crucial Prayer

Ordered away from man and towards God

Dr. G.C. Dilsaver
January 30, 2023
min read

The following is an excerpt from Crucial Christianity: An Ethos Theology for the 3rd Millennium.

Just as the theological virtues of faith and hope give way by necessity to charity in this faithless and despairing third millennium, so too the prayers of petition and thanksgiving give way to the prayers of atonement and adoration in this age of egocentricity. For of the four ends of Christian prayer, the first two of petition and thanksgiving may be egoistically oriented. Even the pagans petition the gods for favors, and even a child knows enough to effusively thank a gift-giver so as to incite further gift-giving. But in the third millennium, where God is greatly seen to exist for man, emphasis on petition and thanksgiving can readily obscure true religion where man exists for God.

But not so with the other two ends of prayer, atonement and adoration which are, respectively, ordered away from man and towards God. It is true that there exists a lesser form of atonement prayer that is still egoistic and may seek to atone, propitiate, or appease God in the self-interest of avoiding his withdrawal of favor or punishment. But such reactive atonement, or purgative, prayer is a Christian's imperfect contrition of being sorry for sin because he “dreads the loss of heaven and fears the fires of hell.” True atonement or purgative prayer is a higher and qualitative sort of prayer that consists of a receptive yes to the decreasing of the pseudo self. It is this purgative prayer that necessarily excludes egoistic motivation because it is intrinsically ego-abnegating.

Ego-abnegating atonement or purgative prayer is motivated by the love/adoring of God, which is the final and highest form of prayer. A person chooses to decrease so Christ may increase; so that he may no longer exist but rather Christ may exist within him; so that he may become a soul that magnifies the Lord. Atonement or purgative prayer is then necessarily accompanied and motivated by adoring prayer. Indeed, the more a person loves God the more he recognizes (even, or especially, if that person is a saint) that he does not love God enough.

Saying yes to one's wretchedness, to the humiliation of one's sinfulness and existence, to one's own sorrows and to the world's sorrows, is the essence of purgative prayer and atonement. Inseparably linked to this purgative receptivity, because it is the very motivation for it, is the love of God. It is the receptive prayer of purgation for love of Christ that can be set in motion with every heartbeat, truly allowing one to pray always and then most intensely in the most difficult moments. This is the crucial prayer, where even petition is but a request for graceful abnegation, and where even thanksgiving is but an act of grateful receptivity to this abnegation. Yes, it is this integrated receptive prayer of purgation for love of Christ that fulfills the essential vocation to decrease the self unto becoming a soul that magnifies the Lord. And it is in this purgative act's loving receptivity, its ceasing and desisting fighting against impacting reality and God's will, that one, by definition, is at peace. And it is in the purgative act for love of Christ that the fruit of that love is surprisingly given: the fruit of joy.

Do you need help from
a psychomoralist?
Yes please!