Prayer & Risen Christ

The people in the Gospel stories had a great advantage over us when it comes to prayer. Jesus was present to them as a person, whom they could see and touch. The Jesus we know through the Scriptures no longer exists. Only the Risen Jesus exists. This leads us to two questions: First, in light of the Resurrection, to whom do we pray? Second, what is the place of the historical Jesus in our prayer life?

Fr. William Johnston, SJ. in an introduction to The Cloud of Unknowing answers our first question in this way: “Now the Christian, following St. Paul, does not pray just to a historical figure but to the now existing risen Christ who contains in himself all the experience of his historical existence in a transformed way, as he indicated by showing his wounds to his disciples.” So, the object of our prayer is clearly the Risen Jesus.

In response to the second question about the place of the historical Jesus in our prayer life, Fr. Johnston states that the problem is that “Christian theology, following the New Testament, situates the historical Jesus at the very heart of prayer—Christ the man, the Incarnate Word.” We are comfortable with the historical Jesus. We can have thoughts and ideas and images of Jesus through his life events. We can have no adequate picture of the Risen Jesus. How then do we make our prayer Christocentric and at the same time relate to the Risen Jesus?

The Jesus Process. We have described in the article, The Jesus Process, the results of Jesus’ Resurrection as the Jesus Process. First, let us revisit that concept and then explore its relevance to our prayer life. Jesus’ lived experience on earth is the core element driving the Jesus Process. Christ, as the Risen Jesus, no longer limited by time or geography, transforms Jesus’ historical experience into a power source, present here and now in the 21st Century. Out of this power source, the Risen Jesus gifts us with his Spirit who empowers us to carry on Jesus’ ongoing Incarnation in us and manifest his powers for others.

Seeing the historical Jesus as the catalyst of the Jesus Process enables us to make our prayer Christocentric and at the same time enables us to embrace the imageless Risen Jesus. Besides being the catalyst of the Jesus Process, the historical Jesus is our powerful psychological anchor in our efforts to encounter the mysterious Risen Jesus, according to the mystic St. Teresa ofAvila.

Power Source. In response to the two questions we raised at the very beginning about the place of the historical Jesus in our prayer, we should add one more question: What is the place of the Risen Jesus in our prayer life?  We must situate the Risen Jesus at the very heart of our prayer, the very center of our prayer. For while the historical Jesus is the catalyst of the Jesus Process, it is the Risen Jesus who POWERS the Jesus Process.

Through the Risen Jesus sacramentalizing Jesus’ life and actions on earth, the Risen Jesus empowers us to practice union with Jesus’ life and actions. Through the Risen Jesus pouring out the Holy Spirit upon us, the Risen Jesus empowers our hearts to be awakened to the Holy Spirit who grows our faith, our hope and our love. And through the Risen Jesus incorporating us into the Body of Christ, the Risen Jesus binds us to our sisters and brothers in the Body of Christ, and empowers us to carry on Jesus’ ongoing Incarnation by being sacraments of peace, healing and forgiveness for others, by being compassion and communion to others, and by being channels of faith, hope and love for others.

Our prayer should always begin by praying to the Risen Jesus, the power source of the Jesus Process. For example, before we say prayers of petition, thanksgiving or adoration, let us begin by praying that the Risen Jesus unite us with the human experiences of Jesus, such as Jesus going off to the mountains to pray. Let us then ask the Risen Jesus to open our hearts to the initiatives, invitations and inspirations of the Spirit. The Risen Jesus brings all the players in the Jesus Process together to make our prayer effective.

Also, in centering prayer we should begin by praying to the Risen Jesus. In centering prayer, we attempt simply to be fully present with all our heart and mind to the presence of the Risen Jesus. It is a wordless, imageless way of prayer to the Risen Jesus who is imageless. So, it is a very appropriate form of prayer.

An important aspect of centering prayer is our intentionality. Here we attempt to establish beforehand our desire to surrender to the Risen Jesus’ mysterious presence. Praying the Jesus Process prepares us for centering prayer. Before we begin, we should ask the Risen Jesus to give us the desire of the historical Jesus for contemplation, and the fire of the Spirit to lose ourselves in union with the Risen Christ.

Let us make the Risen Jesus the center of our prayer life. The Risen Jesus is the only Jesus we have!