We have to do all we can to preserve the inner silence that brings peace to our souls. If we really want to follow the Lord we will thirst for the water that Jesus wants to give us. Knowing and loving God is something that demands time and attention. Whatever is going on outwardly in our life, He wishes to pour into us the fullness of His peace. When we are still and at peace there comes the bliss of something that cannot be put into words. Life for many is stressful and busy. In that case, each evening before going to sleep, examine your conscience and see how much you can change by God's grace. Do not put things off , for the cycle of entanglements will continue. A calm and reflective self-examination will help us deal with attachments to the world, the flesh and the devil. When you are eating, eat. When you are going for a walk, walk. Don't say "I must be doing something else". What is important is not so much what we are doing but whether we give our calm and unhurried attention to it. For the eternity of God in this life is Now, in the present moment. That is all we have, For all is His gift.
We can find God in everything. We do not have to try for He simply IS. His presence fills the whole universe and pervades every creature. Our concern should not be to reach some exalted spiritual state but to begin where we are. To see that he gives Himself to us in everything even though we may not always be aware of His presence. But to know the truth of the fact. If we know deep down, this knowing will bring with it a quality of listening. A listening beyond the ordinary. Listening that brings about, through the light of the Holy Spirit , a compassionate awareness. Everything we experience in life, however onerous or unappealing, is a message of God's will. Sometimes that can be hard to see or accept. On closer analysis it is pride and self will that stops us letting go and trusting with a child-like simplicity, His holy will. Just as Jesus came to do the will of His Father, through His self-sacrifice and suffering, He also teaches us to say "Thy Will be done". We must wait in peace and without anxiety, simply fixing our gaze on Him and our own nothingness. Happy is the person who knows he is nothing. This seems to go against everything we feel. But from that seeming nothingness the mysterious gift of the Holy Spirit makes all things new.
We exist so often on the surface of things, satisfied with so little. The brain is forever active, making sense of what we experience. In a sense it is sorting out information. But the imagination is a different thing. That is why we must try gently to bring it into a state of control. A quiet and compassionate mind brings with it simplicity and clarity to see beyond the surface. To live this way gives the soul the space to receive the warmth and flame of the Holy Spirit. Distractions in prayer do not mean that we not praying deeply. Like a good parent who gives a child a toy, we give the mind something to occupy it when it is restless. Try saying a short prayer like the Our Father or Hail Mary as slowly as you can, and this will bring you again into calmer waters. The Holy Spirit prays in us, and whether it is by word or in silence, it is the same Spirit praying in us. He is really touching different strings of the same instrument. And do not be discouraged that you do not feel anything at the time, but whether afterwards you feel better and more determined to serve God. We are on the same journey together. It is a great adventure, to be led by the hand of the Lord.
To know our need for God is to allow Him to embrace us. Just as in the parable of the prodigal son. He awaits for us to come of our own free will. His love wishes us to choose the good. At every moment, there is a choice to make. To go away, to stay where we are or to move forward. True repentance is moving forward to embrace Him. Only then can we know the mercy and forgiveness of God that sets us free from the slavery of sin. We must gather together all our energy to be able to come back to our true home in Christ. Where there is love, there is mercy and compassion This is not a theory, but a fact. To learn to be quiet, to give the mind a rest is essential for spiritual vitality. To be simple, clear and inwardly quiet, is to know the flame, the warmth of His love.
A mind that is disordered and confused is a mind that seeks security in a far off country outside the embrace of our loving Lord. Be clear then about what you want to do in your life. If you are not, wait upon Him in childlike trust and He will guide you.
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.