When the Spirit dwells in a person, from the moment in which that person has become prayer, he never leaves him. For the Spirit himself never ceases to pray in him. Whether the person is asleep or awake, prayer never from then on departs from his soul. Whether he is eating or drinking or sleeping or whatever else he is doing, even in deepest sleep, the fragrance of prayer rises without effort in hid heart. Prayer never again deserts him. At every moment of his life, even when it appears to stop, it is secretly at work in him continuously, one of the Fathers, the bearers of Christ, says that prayer is the silence of the pure. For their thoughts are divine motions. The movements of the heart and the intellect that have been purified are the voices full of sweetness with which such people never cease to sing in secret to the hidden God - Isaac of Ninevah
St. Paul wrote to the early Christians in Greece, telling them to pray without ceasing. (1 Th. 5:16-19) They did not live lives of ease, in any sense of the word. They had families, occupations, bills, and yes, difficulties and struggles beyond what many of us could imagine. They also suffered greatly for their faith. Yet, he instructed them to Pray without ceasing. Did he really mean it? I believe that he did.
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit."
St. Paul wrote those words to the early Christians in Greece. (1 Th. 5:16-19) They did not live lives of ease, in any sense of the word. They had families, occupations, bills - difficulties and struggles beyond what many of us could imagine. They also suffered greatly for their faith.
Yet, he instructed them to "Pray without ceasing". Did he really mean it? I believe that he did.
The older I get, the simpler life gets. That does not mean it is easy. I speak of spiritual simplicity, the kind of attitude which gets right to the root of what really matters. I believe that Paul meant what he said to the Thessalonian Christians - and that his words are equally important to all who bear the name Christian today.
Prayer is an ongoing dialogue of intimate communion with God. It is a dialogue which need not be interrupted. It is meant to become a normative experience for every Christian, no matter what their state in life or vocation.
God fashioned men and women as the crown of His creation, creating us in His Image, for this ongoing loving, relational conversation of life with Him. To understand what impedes us from growing in the life of prayer it is important to consider the immense gift of human freedom - and what has happened to our capacity to choose.
Love is never coerced. Love always invites a free response. The Lord invites us to respond to His continual invitations.
Our relationship with God was broken, separated and wounded through the first sin, the sin of origins - original sin. That sin, like all sin since, is at its root, a misuse and abuse of freedom. Our first parents were seduced, and infected by pride and self sufficiency. They made a wrong choice and the separation began - and continues.
Our ability to exercise our freedom rightly, to live in His Image by directing our capacity for free choice always toward the good, was impeded through the fall. Freedom itself was fractured.
The Good News is that through Jesus Christ, the way has now been opened for an even fuller communion with God, one that is restored through His Incarnation, Saving life, Death and Resurrection. The Cross of Jesus Christ is the splint which heals our fractured freedom.
In Jesus Christ we are being re-created, re-fashioned and redeemed. He comes to live in all who make a place for Him within the center of their lives. This making a place is the very essence of Christian prayer.
Prayer is not about doing, but about being, in loving communion with the God who is Love.
The Lord wants us to freely choose to respond to His continual invitations to love. We will only find our fulfillment as human persons by entering into that kind of an ongoing relationship. This is the meaning and purpose of life. As we grow in faith through our participation in the life of grace, lived out in the Church, our capacity to respond to His loving invitation grows as well.
Prayer is about falling in love with God and entering into an ongoing communion, a dialogue, with Him.
Isaac of Ninevah was an early eighth century monk, Bishop and theologian. For centuries he was mostly revered in the Eastern Christian Church for his writings on prayer. In the last century the beauty of his insights on prayer are being embraced once again by both lungs, East and West, of the Church. He wrote these words in one of his many treatises on Prayer:
"When the Spirit dwells in a person, from the moment in which that person has become prayer, he never leaves him. For the Spirit himself never ceases to pray in him. Whether the person is asleep or awake, prayer never from then on departs from his soul. Whether he is eating or drinking or sleeping or whatever else he is doing, even in deepest sleep, the fragrance of prayer rises without effort in hid heart. Prayer never again deserts him. At every moment of his life, even when it appears to stop, it is secretly at work in him continuously, one of the Fathers, the bearers of Christ, says that prayer is the silence of the pure. For their thoughts are divine motions. The movements of the heart and the intellect that have been purified are the voices full of sweetness with which such people never cease to sing in secret to the hidden God.""
The Christian revelation answers the existential questions that plague every human heart and trouble every generation. Through His Incarnation, Saving Life, Death, and Resurrection, Jesus opens up full communion with God for all men and women.
He leads us out of the emptiness and despair that is part of the rotted fruit of narcissism, nihilism and materialism. When we enter into the dialogue of prayer, we begin to experience a dynamic and intimate relationship with God. As we respond to all of His invitations of grace, He begins to transform us from within.
Like Isaac of Ninevah said, we can become prayer- as we empty ourselves in order to be filled with up with the very life of God.
Through prayer, daily life takes on new meaning. It becomes a classroom of communion. In that classroom we learn the truth about who we are - and who we are becoming - as we learn to live in Jesus. Through prayer we receive new glasses through which we can begin to see the true landscape of life. Through prayer darkness is dispelled and the path of progress is illuminated.
Through prayer we begin to understand why this communion seems so elusive at times. We admit that we struggle with our own disordered appetites, and live in a manner at odds with the beauty and order of the creation. We can find a new beginning whenever we confess our sin and return to our first love. Prayer opens us up to Revelation, expands our capacity to comprehend truth and equips us to change.
Through prayer we are drawn by Love into a deepening relationship with Jesus whose loving embrace on the hill of Golgotha bridged heaven with earth; His relationship with His Father is opened now to us; the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead begins to give us new life as we are converted, transfigured and made new.
Through prayer, heavenly wisdom is planted in the field of our hearts and we experience a deepening communion with the Trinitarian God. We become, in the words of the Apostle Peter "partakers of the divine nature." (2 Peter 1:4) That participation will only be fully complete when we are with Him in the fullness of His embrace, in Resurrected Bodies in a New Heaven and a New earth, but it begins now, in the grace of this present moment.
The beloved disciple John became prayer. He writes in the letter he penned in his later years:
"See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure. Everyone who commits sin commits lawlessness, for sin is lawlessness" 1John 3:1-4
As we become prayer our daily life becomes the field of choice and we are capacitated by grace to choose the "more excellent way" of love of which the great Apostle Paul wrote. (1 Cor. 13) Pondering the implications of the exercise of our human freedom becomes a regular part of our life, as we learn to examine our conscience, repent of our sin and become joyful penitents.
Prayer provides the environment for such recollection. It exposes the darkness and helps us surrender it to the light of Love, the Living God dwelling within us.
Becoming prayer is possible for all Christians, no matter their state in life or vocation, because God holds nothing back from those whom He loves. This relationship of communion is initiated by Him. Our part is to respond. That response should flow from a heart that beats in surrendered love, in the process of being freed from the entanglements that weigh us down.
The God who is Love hungers for the communion of sons and daughters - and we hunger for communion with Him - because He made us this way. Nothing else will satisfy. The early Church Father Origen once wrote: "Every spiritual being is, by nature, a temple of God, created to receive into itself the glory of God."
We were made in the Image of God and are now being recreated into His likeness in Jesus Christ.
As we become prayer, that likeness begins to emerge. We give ourselves fully to the One who gave Himself to us and cry out with Jesus Christ "Abba Father." No longer alienated, we participate in the inner life of God who now dwells within us. We also dwell in Him through His Spirit. This dwelling is prayer. It is not about doing or getting but about being, becoming, receiving, giving, and loving.
We will live the way we love and we will love the way we pray.
A spiritual writer of our own time, Henri Nouwen, understood the intimacy of prayer and the call to live in God. He wrote these words in his work entitled Lifesigns:
"Jesus, in whom the fullness of God dwells, has become our home by making his home in us he allows us to make our home in him. By entering into the intimacy of our innermost self he offers us the opportunity to enter into his own intimacy with God. By choosing us as his preferred dwelling place, he invites us to choose him as our preferred dwelling place.
"This is the mystery of the incarnation. Here we come to see what discipline in the spiritual life means. It means a gradual process of coming home to where we belong and listening there to the voice which desires our attention. Home is the place where that first love dwells and speaks gently to us. Prayer is the most concrete way to make our home in God."
Let the Holy Spirit begin to teach you how to become prayer. Let God make His home within you. Learn to make your home in Him.
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