The Church speaks of the “four pillars of the Faith” for good reason. The four together make for a strong and stable Faith – one that can persevere, endure and grow. Something is lacking, if one or more of the four is lacking! The four together reinforce one another, and the house is secure.
The four are most simply named Creed, Sacraments, Morals and Prayer. The Catechism is organized with these four as major sections:
- Part One: The Profession of Faith
- Part Two: The Sacraments of Faith
- Part Three: The Life of Faith .
- Part Four: Prayer in the Life of Faith
We can see a certain logical order in this sequence: first is what we believe – the content of our Faith. This is the Truth that we believe. Next the Sacraments include the means by which this Truth is made present to us: the means of grace that brings communion with God who is Truth. Third, the moral life, includes the way in which this Truth is lived in human lives, by human persons.
The fourth pillar, prayer, which seems the simplest and most obvious, is perhaps the least understood of all. Many Catholics think “prayers” when they think “prayer.” They think of this prayer or that prayer – perhaps memorized prayers that are trusted and often repeated by Catholics in general, or perhaps personal and spontaneous prayers that are uttered privately, maybe in silence, with great hope that the Lord will hear and answer. But “prayer” in our Catholic Faith is much more – it is a treasure largely undiscovered; a gift therefore greatly unappreciated and undeveloped.
Here is one Catechism paragraph on the beautiful mystery of prayer:
2564 Christian prayer is a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ. It is the action of God and of man, springing forth from both the Holy Spirit and ourselves, wholly directed to the Father, in union with the human will of the Son of God made man.
Prayer is that relationship with God in Christ, the truth of which is understood by the Creed. Prayer is that relationship with God, which is enabled and nurtured by the grace and presence of Christ in the sacraments. Prayer is that relationship with God, which is lived out according to the moral life given us in Christ. Yes, prayer is that relationship with God in Christ; prayer is that blessed intimate covenant communion that is illuminated, enabled and lived in the other three pillars. How is it that our life of prayer is so typically neglected when it is so crucially important to us?
If our life of prayer is our covenant communion with God in Christ, why is it not our first concern, instead of, typically, our last? We can see how it could be listed last in a logical sequence, because it is not even understood except by the support of the other three. But ought it be the last listed in our concerns, our attention or our pursuits? To ask it even more pointedly: if our personal relationship with Christ is dusty, stagnant and cold, then what good is accurate knowledge about Him, and meeting Him frequently in the sacraments, and even refraining from acting in ways that would dishonor Him? Remember the hard words of Jesus to some on Judgment Day, “I never knew you.”
Prayer is our covenant communion with God in Christ. In prayer we come to know Him and He us, Person to person. In prayer we walk with Him and He with us. In prayer we remain in Him, and He in us. In prayer we live our vocation from the beginning; in prayer we journey toward our eternal destiny with God the Holy Trinity.
Brothers and sisters, let us not neglect our life of prayer. Each of the four pillars of the Faith directs us to God in Jesus Christ. All four pillars together, like the four pillars supporting an altar, lift up our worship making it worship in spirit and truth – worship that the Father seeks and desires.