Prayer is the language of the Christian community. In prayer the nature of the community becomes visible because in prayer we direct ourselves to the One who forms the community. We do not pray to each other, but together we pray to God, who calls us and makes us into a new people. Praying is not one of the many things the community does. Rather, it is its very being. Many discussions about prayer do not take this very seriously. Sometimes it seems as if the Christian community is “so busy” with its projects and plans that there is neither the time nor the mood to pray. But when prayer is no longer its primary concern, and when its many activities are no longer seen and experienced as part of prayer itself, the community quickly degenerates into a club with a common cause but no common vocation.
By prayer, community is created as well as expressed. Prayer is first of all the realization of the community itself. Most clear and most noticeable are the words, the gestures, and the silence through which the community is formed. When we listen to the word, we not only receive insight into God’s saving work, but we also experience a new mutual bond. When we stand around the altar, eat bread and drink wine, kneel in meditation, or walk in procession, we not only remember God’s work in human history, but we also become aware of God’s creative presence here and now. When we sit together in silent prayer, we create a space where we sense that the One we are waiting for is already touching us, as he touched Elijah in front of the cave (1 Kings 19:13).