Learn how to grow in your prayer life
with insightful help from various christian writers.
From Abbot Jerome Kodell, O.S.B.
Subiaco Abbey Subiaco,Arkansas
We have received many gifts from the East, both Christian and non-Christian, regarding prayer and the spiritual journey since Vatican II. Especially have we capitalized on the information about techniques and methods in contemplative focus on God, and have learned much. But have we given as much attention to what is primary in the approach to prayer in the Christian East, the moral context required for the search for God in prayer? There is a sort of perverse democracy that believes God can be approached on our terms.
But though God invites us to pray anywhere and any time, crying out in our need, we cannot expect the fruit of prayer without at the same time seeking virtue. St. John Cassian begins his famous teaching on prayer (Conference 9 & 10) by speaking about what is going on in our life. "Without the virtues no one can attain the continual serenity of prayerfulness." This is the doorway to the temple of God.
In the same way, Cardinal Newman noted that people discuss religion as freely as they discuss the weather, without realizing that an understanding of God and the things of God require grace. No wonder religious mysteries seem foolish to those who are not humbly seeking God's light. The Eastern Liturgy sings "Holy things to the holy!" St. Paul says "We have received the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the things freely given by God"
In prayer, then, and in the approach to the divine truth, we take off the shoes of our pride, asking God to purify our lives so that we may worthily enter His Presence.
From Father Richard Fox, O.C.S.O.
Assumption Abbey Ava, Missouri
What is prayer? The Father of the Church, St. John Damascene defines prayer as "a raising of one's mind and heart to God". This is the definition I learned in grade school many years ago.
Having been in a monastic Order (the Cistercians) for a good number of years and been exposed to prayer during all that time, I would define prayer as a heart to heart exchange with Christ. Sometimes there is not much exchange, as I seem to have only the desire to pray. What I have learned in prayer is that God has a tremendous love for me and an equal amount of patience.
If you are interested in developing a life of prayer, start by setting aside 15 or 20 minutes each day and spend that time in prayer. If you don't know what to pray, try the Our Father. Repeat each phrase five times. If a particular phrase appeals to you, continue to repeat it.
Besides the Lord's Prayer, try reading one of the Psalms, a selection from the Gospels or Epistles. The important thing is to persevere in prayer.
If one is interested in a formal meditation, you could try the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius with preludes, points to consider and colloquy.
The danger in formal meditation is that the exercise can become a purely intellectual activity. Meditation should begin in the head and end in the heart. As one ponders the subject (psalm, prayer, Scripture verse) this should lead to acts of faith, hope, love, petition, etc. As one progresses in meditation the intellectual part should become less and the affective (heart) part become easier and more frequent.
As in all prayer the primary virtue is perseverance. If you are going to pray when you feel like it, your prayers will be few and far between. If you want your prayers to always go as you want it, you will be very disappointed. If our prayer always went as we wanted it to, we would be so full of ourselves that not even God could get close to us as we would have no need of Him. Let us always pray for each other.
"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."
The Jesus Prayer
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