Some more thoughts on prayer

An article by David Torkington popped up in my Facebook feed this morning, and since I wrote about him yesterday, I thought a link to this article would be a good follow.

In Learning to Pray Takes Time and Practice, Torkington writes:

Building a life of prayer means turning our lifestyle upside down if need be to find the necessary daily time for prayer. Prayer is not just a luxury for priests or religious, or people who happen to have spare time on their hands. It is an absolute necessity for everyone who wants to plunge themselves effectively into the mystery of Christ’s life, to be drawn into the endless ecstasy of life and love that unceasingly surges out of the Son towards the Father. We are filled to the measure of our weakness by the Father’s richness. The more we are filled with his fullness, the more we are lifted up out of ourselves in a self-forgetfulness that enables us to pray properly for the first time. The more we are tangibly immersed in the mystery of God’s love, the more we begin to see that all prayer leads to praise, to give glory to him and to lose ourselves in his inexhaustible goodness.

The trouble is we do not believe this, except as a purely academic principle of theology that we scandalously disregard in our lives. We beat our breasts with a sponge, reach for a  drink and nibbles, and slump down in front of the television. If we did believe it, then we would scream out for God’s help; we would go to him, find time to open ourselves to his healing power and urgently create space in our lives for prayer. The space and the time we find in our daily life is the practical sign of our sincere acceptance of our own weakness, and of our total belief in God’s power, which can alone help us. You might say you would like to be a concert pianist or speak fluent French or become a scratch golfer, but I will only believe you mean it when I see you practise for several hours a day.

Read the whole thing.  If you hardly pray at all on a daily basis, it may encourage you to start doing so.  If you already pray the daily offices  of Morning and Evening Prayer (all of us in the ordinariates, lay people included, should at least try to do this!) it might encourage you to linger a bit longer, to “up your game.”

Interestingly, the more time you spend in prayer, the more time opens up for you.  Back in 2013, I began praying 15 decades of the Rosary a day and did so for a period of a year or two.  I would not do all 15 decades at one sitting.  I would go for walks, I would pray a decade while waiting in line, or pray a set of mysteries while driving or cleaning house.

What amazed me was it was easier to pray 15 decades a day  than to find the 20 to 30 minutes to pray only five or one set of mysteries!  Another key is committing to pray for a certain length of time first thing in the morning, preferably even before I bustle about to make coffee or get dressed. Otherwise, the demands of the day start to press in.

The other thing I have discovered about prayer—especially that of sitting silently in God’s Presence, in what Torkington calls the “sacrament of the present moment” is that it can feel pretty awful much of the time—awfully boring, full of distractions and increased awareness of all one’s aches and pains. However,  it’s after one stops and goes about one’s day that one experiences the inflow of God’s grace with more evidence of patience, of being aware in the present moment and of experiencing less frustration or negative reaction to people.

Would that I could keep at this!  I have not found it easy to sustain every single day and I am thankful that coming across David Torkington’s writings has given me impetus to press ahead with more diligence.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend who is facing some big career changes.   She has some time to ponder the direction God wants her to take, and told me she felt like she needs to prepare for death.  I noted that maybe it’s not physical death she is being called to prepare for, but a new level of death to self—-so she can say, like St. Paul, ‘It is not I who lives but Christ who lives in me.’  She sent me a link to this article in LaCroix entitled Boredom is a condition of the inner life.

In it, Charles Wright, a historian and writer, tells LaCroix, why he is currently living in a monastery and what the boredom of monastic life offers.

But boredom can be dry, painful…

It’s also a test. The emptiness, stripped bare, reveals our own inner chaos.

Everything that shrouds the social character goes away. Soon there is nothing left, except our bundle of poverty and misery.

We find ourselves empty-handed, heartbroken and crushed. That’s when God’s grace can work.

The realities of the Kingdom never make noise, they manifest themselves discreetly, at low intensity, never in a strong way.

Boredom, which goes hand in hand with silence and solitude, is a condition of the inner life.

How can Christians make this boredom worthwhile?

In my opinion, the Church is undoubtedly too caught up in the Western notion of “doing,” whereas we need to learn to simply “be.”

Prayer and docility to the Spirit are the real source of all renewal, the inner beginning of all reform.

What David Torkington’s overall message is, and that of Charles Wright above is that we will not have renewal and true reform in the Church until we allow ourselves to be stripped bare, to undergo this spiritual death, and to find that humility and docility to the Spirit that comes with it. Then God’s love will shine in us, but we have to make room for Him first.  This is a responsibility of all of us, not just for our own salvation and sanctification but for those around us, for the world’s.

2 thoughts on “Some more thoughts on prayer

  1. It’s true that the more we, pray, the more we are able to pray. But to those who find it difficult to get started, or perhaps to get going again and move deeper into prayer, here’s one suggestion: take a prayer you know well — the Our Father, the Creed, the Angelus — and every day set aside some time to pray through it slowly, not just “saying” it but really trying to let it unfold in your heart. If it helps, set a little alarm to chime at the appointed time each day.Keep this up daily and within a few weeks not only will you be praying regularly and more easily, but also more deeply. It’s amazing how virtually bottomless familiar prayers really are, once you allow yourself to plumb their depths.

    A year or two ago, when I realized I needed a more regular prayer routine but found it difficult, I decided to begin praying the Angelus morning, noon, and evening each day, and set reminders on my phone with a chime that sounds like a church bell. Even if I overlook the chime once or even twice a day, I find myself praying this beautiful, simple prayer at least once a day, and have developed a deeper appreciation for the wonder of Christ’s incarnation, the totality of Mary’s wholehearted cooperation with the will of God, our need for God’s grace, and a host of other insights and encouragements, with new ones every day. Even without any more structured prayer time, this practice has been transforming me from within, drawing me closer to God, teaching me His love, bringing peace to my mind and to my relationships . . . really, there is no end of benefit, and all because of a small but wholehearted commitment to be with God in prayer each day.

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  2. Pingback: SVNDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

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