Lying: The Antithesis of Prayer

Doug McManaman
Copyright © 2007
Reproduced with Permission

"A thief is preferable to an inveterate liar, but both are heading for ruin." (Qo 20, 25)

For a large portion of the population, including adults, lying has become second nature. Most adolescents routinely lie to get out of class, to avoid a test, etc., and many adults lie habitually because their lying has for years gone unchallenged. But Scripture reveals that lying is inconsistent with life in the Person of Christ (Cf. Mt, 5, 37; Eph 4, 17-25; Col 3, 9).

Ethics is first and foremost about character (from the Greek: ethos, "character"). The human person establishes his moral identity (character) by the choices that he makes. You are what you choose, not what you eat. If I choose to lie, I become a liar.

A liar is a person who cannot be trusted. Moreover, the liar brings about a "split" within himself, that is, a division, a degree of disintegration. In the lie there is a separation between what is in the liar's word and what is in his mind, for although the truth is in his mind, it is not in his word. And so there is a part of himself that is not in his words, namely, that part he knows to be true. In this sense, the liar lacks integrity, or integration.

The Son is Logos, the Word of the Father, His perfect self-expression, for the Word is one in being with the Father: "the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (Jn 1, 1). There is never a separation between the Word and the Father such that the Word is no longer the perfect image and expression of the Father.

But man has been created in the image and likeness of God. Hence, I am to become increasingly one with my word; my word ought to be an extension and expression of myself. For the more our word becomes united and filled with the content of the truth that is in us, the more like God we become. The more our word is emptied of that content and is made to express not ourselves but some other falsehood (as happens when we lie), the more unlike God we become. When the liar brings about this split between his word and his inner self, he very gradually leads himself downward towards a state of personal disintegration, the very antithesis of holiness.

Lying involves a kind of meditation. Consider a poorly constructed lie: "I couldn't return your urgent call because I was out all weekend, hunting elephants." Easy to see through the lie, for not much thought went into it. But a more carefully crafted lie requires more thought and meditation.

Why meditation? The reason is that the mind thinks, but the spirit meditates, and when the liar thinks of the best way to craft his lie, his spirit is open to the best suggestions. But spirit opens upon spirit, not flesh. The spirit of the liar does not open upon God, who is Spirit and Truth, but upon the spirit whom Christ refers to as "the father of lies" (Jn 8, 44), whom Scripture refers to as the most crafty of all God's creatures (Gn 3, 1). The crafty liar engages in a kind of anti-prayer. And the discrepancy between the elements of the self that the liar brings about in choosing to lie is a fissure through which the influence of darkness seeps in even further.

As the liar continues to lie -- for we are creatures of habit --, he gradually loses himself, and at some point his loss is virtually irretrievable. And he will begin to delight in his lies, because through his successes he demonstrates to himself his apparent intellectual superiority over everyone who is taken in, all of whom have become a means to his own ends, puppets within the environment he schemes to construct for himself.

Lying is the very antithesis of prayer, and its effects are equally opposed to those of genuine prayer, such as integration, light, community, and salvation. The only remedy against lying is a commitment that absolutely excludes it, always, everywhere, and in every circumstance.