The theory of relativity tells us that space and time are not what they appear to be. They’re relative, meaning that they don’t always function in the same way and they aren’t always experienced in the same way. Time can stand still.
Or can it? This side of eternity, it would seem not. Ever since the universe started with a mammoth explosion some 13.8 billion years ago the clock has been running non-stop, like a merciless meter, moving relentlessly forwards.
However, our faith suggests that time will be different in eternity, so different in fact that we cannot even imagine how it will be in heaven. As St Paul tells us in his Letter to the Corinthians: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him.” How will time be experienced in heaven? As we’ve just affirmed, that cannot be imagined now.
Or can it? In a wonderful new book on the Resurrection and eternal life, Is This All There Is?, the renowned German Scripture scholar Gerhard Lohfink suggests that we can and sometimes do have an experience of time as it will be experienced in eternity. For Lohfink, we experience this whenever we’re in adoration.
For him, the highest form of prayer is adoration. But what does it mean to “adore” God and why is that the highest form of prayer? Lohfink answers: “In adoration we ask nothing more of God. When I lament before God it is usually my own suffering that is the starting point. Even when I petition God, the occasion is often my own problem. I need something from God. And even when I thank God, unfortunately I am usually thankful for something I have received. But when I adore, I let go of myself and look only to God.”
Admittedly, lament, petition and thanksgiving are high forms of prayer. An old, classical and very good definition of prayer defines it as “lifting mind and heart to God”, and what’s in our hearts virtually at all times is some form of lament, petition or thanksgiving.
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