PRAYING AS JESUS TAUGHT
Withdraw in Secret (Article continued from Main Prayer & Contemplation Page )
Secret Silence is the sacred context for fruitful prayer and meditation. Prayer is an encounter with the living God, a personal encounter with Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Here Sacred Scripture encourages the one who desires to pray to find a place of seclusion, retreating from the activities and the demands of the world. One needs to withdraw in secret, that is, willfully isolating oneself from engagement with others and things.
The long tradition of the Church suggests that this withdrawing is in fact an effort at creating quiet. The discipline of silence is the necessary setting for communion with God. One who desires to pray deeply must practice the discipline of quieting oneself down.
Prayerful Silence has both an exterior and interior dimension.
In order to achieve interior silence, that is the quieting of the senses and mental activity, one must have a proper degree of exterior quiet. Much, if not most exterior noise can be controlled and eliminated with a proper setting and proper planning. One must find a conducive place that has little or no physical distractions. A prayer chair or other comfortable place should be identified. It may take a little time until the proper place is found. Once established this prayer place should be used on a daily basis. It should be made clear to others that this is your special place for quiet and prayer. You and others should respect this place as your sanctuary for prayer. Activities, other than prayer, should not take place in this sanctuary. For this sanctuary is reserved for Divine Encounters with God. Only meditation, reflection and prayer are fitting activities for this sanctuary.
Controlling Exterior Noise
All exterior noises need to be controlled, including the interruptions caused by electronic devices which are becoming more and more invasive. Exterior noise is disruptive and destructive to prayer. Necessary communication with family members and others does happen. However, for one who desires to pray unnecessary interruptions must be addressed.
Controlling Interior Noise
Once exterior noise is quieted, the real and most demanding challenge is the control of interior noise. We are blessed to have active minds, imaginations, and memories, as well as the five senses of the body. While these gifts are essential in navigating the world of the physical, they have their limitations and drawbacks with regard to spiritual life. In the realm of the spirit one needs to quiet down all interior distractions and focus entirely on God, and God alone.
Praying With Sacred Scripture
One initial way of controlling the noises of the mind, imagination and memory is to occupy them with appropriate activities. Since communion with God is the purpose of prayer, appropriate activities would include a short reading from Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, repeating the Hail Mary while mediating on the Mysteries of the Rosary, or repeating a short prayer (My Lord & My God).
Since prayer is communion with God, we need to listen to God before we begin talking to Him. Jesus Christ is the Word of God. Therefore, beginning prayer with a reading from the Gospel initiates the prayerful exchange with God in proper order: God speaks; we listen and only then do we respond.
Meditating on Sacred Scripture
After reading a small passage from the Gospel, or another portion of Sacred Scripture it is very valuable to reflect on the Word of God. The Gospels tell us that the Blessed Mother would often ponder the events of her life and her son’s words. So too, we are to ponder God’s Word by desiring to have God reveal how this passage/word applies to our life. You may be moved to respond to God with mental or vocal words of praise and thanks, or petition. But remember to keep your response short, and make your words deliberate and from the heart.
However, you may not feel like placing anything into words, but rather to just remain quiet enjoying the presence of God. This is very appropriate and valuable.
Do Not Pray like Pagans
It is hard not to use a large number of words in praying especially when offering petitions. Many of us feel the great need to identity every person for whom we have promised to pray, and describe in detail the circumstances of their needs. Yet, Jesus cautions us to refrain from babbling on like pagans.
We gain God’s attention not because we use a lot of words; we have God’s attention because we are His children and we are in need. In another place in Holy Scripture Jesus explains that if our natural father has enough sense to give us food and shelter then for sure God the Father knows better what we need and how to satisfy those needs.
Trust in the Father
Using a lot of words in our prayer has one debilitating result … it reduces our trust in God. When we feel like we have to convince God to care for us, or we try to pressure God to do good for us, we shift from Trusting God to depending on our own skills and words of persuasion. We never get God’s attention or goodness because we force him; we have God’s attention and providence because He loves us! God is always attentive, and we need to grow in trusting Him!
1. Call on the Holy Spirit—Come Holy Spirit open my heart and mind to your Holy Presence.
2. Read from Holy Scripture—Especially from the Gospels.
3. Ponder the Word—Seek its application to your life.
4. Offer a response or remain in silence—A vocal, mental or silent response to God.
5. Complete your prayer with the Our Father.
May God bless our efforts, and may He find in each one of us a welcoming heart and soul awaiting Him in silence. Amen.
PSALM FOR CONTEMPLATION
(Article continued from Main Prayer & Contemplation Page ) The Psalm vividly describes the thirsting within us for the consoling presence of God. When one is serious about spiritual life and praying in particular, it becomes very clear that all of us are wounded, frightened and long for peace. We are truly in search of the face of God that alone can provide real mercy, true security and lasting peace. And also we experience the apparent absence of God which makes us downcast, and drives us to groan and cry out for God.
Yet, we know that God never leaves us and is ever vigilant for we are His children, little dears. So what must we do when we feel so abandoned and alone? The Psalmist offers this counsel from his own experience:
Wait for God, for I shall again praise him, my savior and my God.
Wait for God, and while you wait continue to praise Him. Remain as a little deer/dear and continue to address Him as your savior, your God and your Father. Persevere, demonstrate your stubborn faith and continue to seek the streams of water, the living God!
Wait for God and He will provide you roaring torrents, waves and breakers that will sweep over you—torrents of his mercy, and his righteousness!
Wait for God and do not give in to your feelings. Allow your faith to persist. Be bold and respectfully demanding. Groan and cry out like a dear child crying for its mother. Surely, God hears the cry of His children, the thirsting of His little dears.
Wait for God, for is it not so that the very craving and thirsting for God is the presence of God within us?
Has He not fashioned us as dear ones longing for running streams? Could our loving Father not provide water and even more for His Dears?