I have been reflecting further, and even praying, about prayer and time.
I still think what I wrote here has some truth, but I am also conscious of a few risks and caveats I would like to discuss.
They are mainly around the focus of our attention, and issues like guilt and worry.
We are not to worry about the past (or the future, come to that) : it is (I think) one of the Devil's favourite strategies to distract us from attending to what we should be doing in the present moment.
So by all means, we may pray about the past; prayers of supplication, as I say, seem right to me, but perhaps we should think more particularly of thanksgiving. However, I think we should take care not to spend too long focussing on the past: for while there is no doubt that God can do something about it, we cannot (other than pray).
I think it no coincidence that the Pater Noster focuses on today: Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie Give us this day our daily bread; and likewise that the Ave Maria asks for Our Lady's prayers nunc et in hora mortis nostrae Now and the hour of our death.
These great prayers seem to me to teach us that it is now that we should be mainly focused on in our prayer (though ever mindful of the hour of our death... which might just be now, of course).
By way of digression (though not really) I remember praying the rosary with my mother when she was dying of cancer. She was weak, but trying hard to vocalise the prayers. However her voice faded at the end of each Hail Mary, so it sounded as though she were simply praying: pray for us sinners now... As it was the hour of her death, that was profoundly moving; and I have every confidence that our Blessed Mother was indeed praying with and for her at that hour.
Guilt, of course, is different again. The purpose of guilt in the moral realm is just like pain in the physical: to let us know that something is wrong. The correct response is an act of contrition, and sacramental confession. Once we have confessed and been absolved, we should not indulge any further guilt: to do so is (to say the least) an ungracious response to the love of God the Father, who had His Son hang on a cross precisely to merit forgiveness for us, and continues to pour out His Holy Spirit upon us to sanctify us.
So if our prayers about the past are prompted by feelings of guilt for confessed sin, perhaps we should strive (and pray for the grace) to transform them into prayers of thanks for the grace of repentance and forgiveness (always assuming we have been to confession: if not, that is the urgent priority!)
So we may, I think, pray for the past (and likewise for the future, though again, worry about it seems to me a distraction) but perhaps our primary focus of attention should be on the present: what is God saying to me here and now - and what is my response?
As ever, I am interested in others' reflections on this: I thought the comments on Mark's blog which he linked to in the comms box of the previous post, were very thought-provoking.
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