If I were to distill the movements of the retreat into a single image, it would be this: Green Lantern. As some of you know, the Green Lantern is a character from DC Comics. Given a green power ring, the Green Lantern is charged with being a force for good in the world. But the awesome power of the ring requires that it be recharged on occasion. The wearer must charge it using a small battery that draws its own power from the Central Power Battery. (yeah, it's a stretch, but bear with me)
You see, the power of the ring fails if it is not charged. Sure, the Green Lantern is still the Green Lantern but, without taking the time to charge his ring, he is unable to answer demands posed to him as a member of the Green Lantern Corps. Wearing a charged ring, the Green Lantern is possessed awesome abilities; a dead ring, however, is one that is cut off from the source of its power and bequeaths to its wearer no advantage at all.
This is how my prayer has been. When I pray, I bring myself into contact with the Source that gives direction and meaning to my life. I am more attentive to the needs of others, I am more aware of God's presence in my life, I am more fully committed to 'giving and not counting the cost' as I enact feats that, without this guidance, I know that I'd be incapable of doing. When I fail to pray, when I place other things as a priority in my life, I find myself limping. I am more easily irritable, I feel disconnected, I experience the temptations of success-at-any-cost and I measure myself against human-made standards rather than those set forth by God's Kingdom.
In short, when I prayer I feel empowered to be part of the Corps; when I do not pray, I experience myself as not living up to my potential or answering fully to the responsibilities with which I have been charged. When I pray, I can respond in amazing ways to my vocation; when I do not, I'm like a silly man running around in a funny suit.
This is a lesson I've had to learn the hard way this year. But I am glad to have learned it. To be a Christian is a heroic act in this day and age. We are beset by forces of darkness and a cultural nihilism that demands now, perhaps more than ever, for women and men to proclaim loudly the message of the Gospel. But sometimes we get caught up in the doing that we forget to center ourselves, that we think that the power that drives us is of our own making, rather than from the true Source of All. Our daily prayer reconnects us to this Source, bringing us back into contact with a power that is far beyond our comprehension or our control, a power that enables us to do great things when we synch ourselves with it.
Prayer is a heroic act, one through which we recognize our own limitations as finite beings and one that offers us our mission in this world and the power to achieve it. It is the discipline of the hero, the day-to-day work that makes him or her able to answer when called upon. Perhaps we Christians should develop something of our own Oath akin to that of the Green Lantern Corps:
In brightest day, in blackest night,I would suggest that something like this would make prayer an oh-so-sexy endeavor, kind of like football or karate practice. It sort of casts things in terms of the Call of the King and Two Standards meditations found in the Spiritual Exercises. Thinking of prayer as an active participation, a practice-for-the-Kingdom, a girding of one's loins for battle, might go a long way in helping today's young people cultivate a deeper prayer life.
No evil shall escape my sight
Let those who worship evil's might,
Beware my power...Green Lantern's light!
This, I offer, as just a suggestion: it worked for me on my retreat and, if it's an image that is helpful to you, I commend it gladly. If it's not helpful, perhaps thinking of Pokemon or Hello Kitty or some other such thing would do you a good turn.