Thanks once more to your letter. Your query, “How do I pray?” is one which has been echoing in my very own coronary heart for the final twenty years.
For sure, I used to be deeply moved by it and I want to take it very critically. For my part, that is a very powerful query one can ask in life. The rationale for that is easy: prayer, in contrast to the rest, reveals to us the reality about God and ourselves.
One might change into shortly overwhelmed, nonetheless, on the huge array of literature that exists on the subject of prayer. There are numerous books, seminars, and podcasts on prayer. One hears about Carmelite prayer, Franciscan prayer, Benedictine prayer, and so on. Additionally, prayer is usually characterised as being both contemplative, meditative or vocal. Then there are quite a few strategies and concepts about issues like posture, respiratory, and materials to hope with. Ought to I sit, ought to I stand, ought to I kneel, the place ought to I pray, and when?
Any individual who’s contemplating diving into this ocean we name prayer, can shortly change into overwhelmed and really feel like they’re drowning earlier than they even get their toes moist. I’d recommend, within the meantime, that you simply ignore every part talked about above and easily perceive prayer as this: studying to have a look at Jesus and permitting him to look again at you. That, I’m satisfied, is the essence of all prayer, no matter what type or form it takes.
I can bear in mind a couple of years in the past coming to the startling realization that in my official “prayer occasions” I used to be spending little time really praying. What was I doing? I used to be daydreaming, worrying, planning, self-analyzing, and so on. Relatively than taking a look at Jesus, I used to be taking a look at myself. I can bear in mind pondering, “I should be in a darkish evening as a result of God seems absent to me!” I’d quickly uncover, nonetheless, that the darkness I used to be experiencing was the results of my very own self-obsession, which was stopping me from taking a look at Him. Therefore, God was not absent as I believed, I used to be.
Due to this fact, it will be important, Brian, to keep in mind that whether or not you’re praying with Scripture, in Eucharistic adoration, journaling, and so on. that your focus must be on Jesus. This may seem to be an apparent level, but how troublesome it’s to do! Anybody making an attempt to hope for 5 minutes will change into aware of the seemingly infinite present of distractions, temptations, and random ideas that so simply steal our consideration away from Jesus. In truth, many individuals say that they really feel worse after they start to hope as a result of prayer is revealing to them how distracted they are surely.
The excellent news is, they aren’t getting worse, however merely experiencing at a deeper stage their very own want for a Savior.
I discussed above that prayer is studying to have a look at Jesus and permitting Him to look again at you. What does this appear to be virtually in a single’s life? First, our gaze in prayer is primarily prolonged outward, away from ourselves, in direction of God. Christian prayer will not be a self-help train, a stress discount program, or a therapeutic device to assist us deal with our issues. In fact, prayer can present perception about ourselves and assist to calm our emotional and psychological states, nonetheless, these are usually not ends to be sought in prayer. In prayer, God is the tip, and so I need to prolong my gaze past myself.
Second, since all of us battle with a bent in direction of self-obsession, we want one thing to assist us take a look at Jesus, significantly if we’re new to prayer. A scripture passage, a couple of a long time of the Rosary, or just sitting earlier than an icon or crucifix, and so on. is usually a great support in serving to us to look extra deliberately on the Lord throughout official occasions of prayer. As your prayer life and relationship with God matures, many individuals uncover much less of a necessity for one thing exterior to assist them gaze upon Jesus. That, nonetheless, is a subject for one more letter!
Lastly, Christian prayer is relational. Although it’s true that God is at all times better than our concepts, ideas, and pictures of him, it’s also true that God will not be merely some vitality or power “on the market” within the universe. Regardless of what we are able to or can’t find out about God, this a lot is true: God is a private presence. Therefore, our relationship with him, significantly in prayer, is relational. In prayer we’re speaking with a Individual, who listens to us, speaks to us, and most significantly, loves us.
On this first a part of prayer, studying to have a look at Jesus, you’re discovering who God is. Within the second half, permitting Jesus to have a look at you, you’re discovering who you’re. Fairly truthfully, the primary a part of prayer is comparatively simple. As soon as the presence of Jesus captures our consideration our distractions and ideas are likely to dissipate for a time, permitting us to gaze upon him with surprise and intrigue. Apparently, it’s the second a part of prayer that many individuals discover probably the most troublesome, and trigger some to desert prayer altogether.
What you’ll uncover, Brian, as you permit Jesus to gaze again at you in prayer is a presence that’s mild, attentive, and loving. As fantastic and enticing as this will sound, the purity of his gaze upon us is in contrast to something we expertise on this life. It’s each confronting, but disarming, intense but peaceable, demanding but affected person, all of which leaves us feeling each consoled and afraid.
Once we permit Jesus to gaze upon us it may possibly usually really feel like staring immediately into the solar on a scorching summer time day; regardless that we benefit from the heat and brightness of the solar, our eyes want time to regulate to its presence. My prayer for you is that you simply permit your self time, not solely to your eyes, however your coronary heart, to regulate to the dazzling gentle of His presence.
Sadly, all through most of our life, we’re merely seen “exteriorly.” Issues like social standing, fame, and our bodily look seize a big quantity of consideration from the world. What’s ironic is that by remaining merely on the outside, the one that has change into the item of fascination is rarely revealed. Fortunately, Jesus works within the precise reverse means. What he wishes is you, not the you that’s introduced on social media or the you that your profession and social standing may point out, however the you past all these short-term features of your life. Therefore, with out prayer, one can solely stay on the floor of life.
Does all of this seem too good to be true? Whereas it’s good and needed to speak about prayer, a very powerful factor is that one really begins to hope. I hope that if something, this letter conjures up you Brian to hope by merely taking a look at Jesus and permitting Him to have a look at you, as a result of it’s right here, greater than some other place, the place you’ll uncover each who God is and who you’re. In spite of everything, isn’t this what we’re all on the lookout for?
Prayer is the important thing that unlocks the door to those nice mysteries.
Sincerely in Christ,
This publish was first printed on From the Friars and is reprinted right here with permission.
Picture courtesy of the Neighborhood of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and @martin.jernberg.