Many believers were taught as children that the easiest way to recall the goals of prayer was to remember the simple word “PART.” Petition, Adoration, Reparation and Thanksgiving are all styles of prayer that have deep roots in the Sacred Scriptures, numerous examples in the lives of the saints, and certainly profound moments in our own lives. “The Lord is my Shepherd…” and “Our Father who art in heaven…” are Biblical supplications familiar to every believer. “Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts…” is a time-honored entreaty that gets frequent use at family gatherings. Certainly the Act of Contrition – “O my God, I am heartily sorry…” – is uttered not only in the confessional booth, but also at those times when conscience is especially pierced. So prayers of petition, thanksgiving and reparation are common among the devout and probably among nominal believers as well.
Adoration however, as a regular manner of prayer, is certainly more elusive even among the church-going faithful and, probably, almost non-existent for the casual disciple. Genuflecting before the tabernacle and piously consuming the Sacred Body and Precious Blood at Mass are near moments of adoration. But reverently relishing the Presence of God in one’s own heart or in the sacramental Divine Presence or in the majesty of the liturgy for any considerable length of time are often left to monks and nuns in their moments of solitary contemplation. After all, as Isaiah well notes in this coming Sunday’s first reading, basking in the presence of God is well beyond even the righteous: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.” Yes, perhaps adoration is better left to the professionals.
Still, perhaps this Sunday’s Gospel passage might offer a bit of encouragement to the many amateur adorers within the believing community. The parable of the workers in the vineyard concludes by turning the part-time working staff on its head. Those who “bore the burden of the day’s heat” are paid the usual daily wage. No one is short-changed. Yet those late comers who stood by “idle all the day” were equally compensated. Surely an injustice is taking place here. Yet, no, the vineyard owner is certainly free to do what he wants with his own money. If he wants to be generous to the idlers, who can fault him? In his vineyard, every worker stands a chance at full compensation. As Jesus observes, “Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
So there is hope and encouragement for those meager adorers who have stood idly by as St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila and the monks at Spencer and the nuns at Wrentham have spent the day in the prayer of adoration. As Isaiah again observes in the same passage, “Seek the LORD while he may be found, call him while he is near. Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked his thoughts; let him turn to the LORD for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving.” Yes, even the “scoundrel” and the “wicked” are not discounted by Jesus. Christ’s vineyard is a universal kingdom. Believers are wise to take a second look at the prayer of adoration.
Adoration, like all love, is chiefly an act of the human will — aided by grace of course. Whether the believer is involved in a liturgical celebration at church or engaged in private prayer at home, the soul’s inner decision to worship and glorify is primary. Every prayer is the raising of the mind and heart to God. But the principal element of the prayer of adoration is indeed that “raising,” that is, the fostering and cultivating of a heartfelt recognition of God and his dignity. Pious words can flow and devout actions can confirm, but a deep, inner acceptance of the majesty of God is the first step toward authentic adoration. The final verse of this Sunday’s psalm response should offer hope for authentic adoration to all believers: “The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth (Ps. 145:18).” Awe before God’s grandeur is the root and foundation of all adoration and it is available to the late-comers as well as time-tested.