Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life – Proverbs 4:23
Prayer is as simple as one might wish for. This is what I have been learning as I’ve set aside time in this season to read the writings of the ancient mystics. For me their teachings have given greater understanding and assistance to help me pass through the challenges and graces in which are awakened to God’s presence in my life.
It’s been an invitation of learning to recognize and yield to the often subtle way that God accesses my mind and heart, and to learn to bear witness to this process by grounding myself in the simplicity and silence of wordless prayer.
There are two features in a life dedicated to living in the presence of God:
- Meditation which is the prayer of active recollection and is anchored in the trust that Christ lives in us.
- Contemplation (prayer of quiet) is a pure gift, a total awareness of God’s presence, the highest degree of wordless prayer… we don’t do anything ourselves.
For me contemplation has always been my preferred method of praying, However, it is now playing a bigger and bigger role in my relationship with the Lord.
Perhaps more important in our own active and complicated lives today is that contemplation can happen in the midst of activity. There is no difference between action and contemplation, no need to withdraw into ideal circumstances to experience the unfailing love of God. It heightens our capacity to know and love God and it is not found somewhere at the end of a path.
A person who is in love with God has the responsibility to love others in whatever way he or she is called. Action and contemplation may be distinct, but they rise up from the same inner wellspring. The test for any growth in love is our love for “others” which is, at the same time, a sign that we love God.
Because God’s love is primary, our walk takes different stages as we grow in His love. Each stage can be interrupted without warning, like a sudden shift in a strong breeze, leaving the soul refreshed and an experience of love that was always present but only at that moment revealed.
We begin to appreciate and give thanks for our unique personal history. At some point we may discover that our personal history fades into the background but for now we honour the choices we have made in the past to follow Jesus and the choices we continue to make to honour God. It takes time as we move at our own pace, stopping at times to reflect on a particular attachment and the inner tug we feel to relinquish it. We also take time to recall life events that have brought us face-to-face with our own human limitations and in that moment ask ourselves to show how that loss has led us to change.
All through these stages were a means for our knowing and loving God, for seeing what we owed Him and for regretting what we had been. Our journey becomes more demanding than we might have expected. We have a sense that we are in a deep personal relationship with God and that our entire being is at stake. Our walk begins to take on a life of its own. Each moment now is enough to satisfy us. Aware that God is calling us, concerns that once were weighing us down no longer seem to be important.
Prayer becomes less and less tied to words and images and becomes a silent participation in the prayer of Christ “It is no longer I, but Christ living in me.” (Galatians 2:20).
We release control and become more at home in silence and develop an attitude of waiting. Waiting has become such a significant part of my prayer journey and I have found this difficult because I want to know that I am progressing. Slowly I am learning that I need to renounce all my desires for a result. No longer making my walk successful is my concern, it is my willingness to walk in silence and let silence deepen into the unknown mystery now becomes enough.
For the most part I have felt no warm feelings but only dryness; however, I appreciate that this is an invitation from God to a more simple prayer. These moments are primarily a challenge to open the door of my heart more fully to humility and love.
The proof for me is, to borrow one of Mother Teresa’s quotes:
“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” Mother Teresa.