Prayer is quite simple really. I think it is us who make it complicated. That is why many people, good people, do not know how to pray and soon give up. We must try to set aside the idea that it is something we do separate from everything else. Then the insight into the fact that God sees our whole life in an instant, enables us to see that we are always in the presence of Him who sustains us, despite our sins and weaknesses.
It is like leaving a door open, if you leave the door open the breeze of the evening comes in. You cannot invite it: you cannot prepare for it; you cannot say, "I must, I must not". Just leave the door open. This means a very simple act, an act which is not of the will, which is not of pleasure, which is not projected by the tricks of thought, but of love. A connection beyond the limitations of self. Then through this open door comes something that cannot be measured in time. If we can begin to see that, the process of transformation can begin.
YOUR FATHER WILL REWARD YOU
The silence we speak of is not emptiness. Thanks to it, we find God in the depths of the heart; the God who is closer to me than I am to myself. The silence is a fullness. It is not the silence of those who wish to escape from life and seek self-satisfaction.
"Your Father will reward you" with the conviction that is expressed in Psalm 139 "You know all there is about me...........All my ways lie open to you".
When I accept the fact that God lives in me "in secret", then what Christ said comes to pass: "Your Father will reward you". Can we give this phrase its full force?
Can we really believe it? It is true that the Spirit is God's "first fruit to those who believe". The gift of God, or His response to the appeal of our heart, is the Holy Spirit.
In prayer, as in action, only silence allows us to find God and not go astray. Only the person who is prepared to experience his personal poverty and emptiness can be filled with the fullness of God.
It all comes back to educating the heart to silence. This is the work of a lifetime, never fully achieved. Anyone who takes up this task risks discovering with amazement that after years of spiritual exercises, he has never prayed in the truth of his heart.
He has stayed on the surface of his being, satisfied with a selfish, sentimental, intellectual form of prayer which gives only occasional peace. Let him consent to be himself, nothing but himself, before God. This is the first stage of a prayer that comes from the heart.
Then we shall discover that this prayer is a simple thing. We ask the Lord to lead us into this simplicity. On the day we shall begin to pray as we should.
CLOSE THE DOOR
We can see now where the difficulty lies in prayer. It is not in lack of time or physical conditions. It lies in this: we rarely descend to the bottom of our heart and remain there. In other words, we are seldom ourselves.
We pray badly because we are not ourselves, and we are not ourselves because we do not know how to be silent. The condition for all prayer, as for the act of freedom that it demands is SILENCE. We need to rediscover this fundamental truth.
The silence we speak of is not only the silence of the lips or body. We need to free ourselves from the interior "motives" that continue to play themselves in our interior. We need to struggle for silence of the heart.
Conquest of the interior powers, refusal of distractions, these are two aspects of natural asceticism which make us accept the silence necessary for being oneself at prayer.
While the heart remains sluggish - now too light, now too heavy - resemble the broken cisterns of which Jeremiah spoke, letting water escape on all sides. In this condition.
We cannot live in peaceful, continuous prayer. Lacking silence, prayer is impossible.
Even in our room we are outside ourselves.
In order to enter into prayer, let us begin by understanding something we must keep telling ourselves over and over again: that there is in us an unconquerable citadel where no force, human or diabolical, can enter and drag us out. It is the heart.
As long as we are conscious, we can be sure that no one can reach that centre of ourselves and make us deny that intimate relationship we have with God and ourselves.
We need to recall this truth, to prevent us from falling into the role of either the Pharisee or the pagan at prayer. Either we play a role, or we are afraid of failure. In either case, it is not God we seek. Besides that, we are not ourselves, but we live in the image of others have made us, or according to the idea we have conceived of ourselves.
To pray, be free:
free from others, from the self above all. Free from all poses, all sentimentalism, all over-concern with psychological factors, in the liberty God has given you so that you may be his.
When you pray, go into your room..........
What is the room to which we go to find the gift of the Father?
The Greek word used here means the storeroom where provisions are kept, the treasury where the money of the state is guarded, a private place where people cannot come and go freely. The public square is not the place of prayer. You play a role there; you are not yourself.
Now we understand the two counsels of Christ on prayer: don't act like the Pharisee; don't act place the pagan. Avoid the ostentation of the one and the babbling of the other. When we speak to God He is not concerned with the pose we assume before the public. He does not judge us on our reputation. Even more - He does not stop at the character we play in our own sight, upon which we are temped to estimate our inner worth. So, in the heart I see myself beyond my role among others. I strip myself to the essential truth of my being. I become or I am challenged to become, the reality behind the masks.
So, do not say that there are places or states in which prayer is impossible. Overworked, ill, distracted, lonely, even sinful - accept being in the precarious situation that is yours at the moment. Do not wait for the ideal conditions or those you think are ideal. The surrender is yourself: the poverty you experience is your prayer. That is enough.
GO INTO YOUR ROOM AND CLOSE THE DOOR
It is easy to see prayer in terms of methods and techniques. Yet the foundation of all prayer, established by Jesus, is forgotten:
When you pray, go into your room
and closing the door, pray to your Father in secret,
and your Father who sees in secret, will reward you.
The first question is not whether we pray best in the chapel, in our room, or in the middle of the market place, but whether we have entered into our heart, the place of prayer.
So, we shall try to know this secret place of prayer, and how to get there, we shall try to know how to remain there once we have entered; and finally, we shall see what we find there.
First, then, the heart or place of prayer;
then silence or the means to enter the heart;
then finally the Holy Spirit, the gift of God to those who make the journey inwards.
My dear friends, the purpose of this blog is to share with you some thoughts to help us deepen our Faith. Over the coming weeks to hope to do that, the written word gives us more time to reflect and examine ourselves in the light of God's love.
PRAYER THE OXYGEN OF LIFE
Prayer has much more to do with God's search for us than our search for Him. We could have no knowledge of Him unless He chose to reveal Himself to us Our prayer is a response to God's will. There is only one prayer, and that is the prayer of Christ. It is a prayer of the Holy Spirit living in us. How else do we understand the words of scripture:
If any man is thirsty, let him come to me:
Let him come and drink, who believes in me.
as Scripture says, from his breast will flow
fountains of living water. John. 7:38
Prayer is not something "I do". It is something that takes place in me. It is the Holy Spirit who prays in me.
The Spirit of God has made his home in you.......
The Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead
lives in you........
When we cannot choose words in order to pray properly,
the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way
that could never be put into words. Romans.8
So the art of prayer is in large measure not learning how to do something, but learning what needs to happen so that the Holy Spirit in me can move freely. It is learning how to establish a state of active receptivity in me This is what our journey is all about. Methods of prayer are just forms to establish this receptivity.
Prayer is the stream of love within me calling out to the Father. We are used to thinking of prayer as "my prayer". The first thing we need to do is to pass beyond this egoism so that "my prayer" does not even become a possibility. STOP, BE STILL: and allow God to work in us.
But to really stop: to be really still: to really allow God to reveal Himself to us - this requires great generosity and courage on our part.
St Mary on the Hill now has a new website.