The Basics Of Deep Prayer


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Contents of the Chapter:

Carrying the Residual Focus

Striving for Simplicity

Watching Our Appetites

Keeping Our Balance
Carrying the Residual Focus:

    The prayer time might feel so good that we don't want it to end, but the prayer time is meant to be the beginning of the day. During the prayer time, we develop the technique and desire that we intend to use the rest of the day. The focus, personality, and virtue of the prayer time are meant to be our companions for the rest of the day.

    As Saint Martin de Porres has told us, the success we have, in carrying the prayer time during the day, will prominently affect how well we do during our next prayer time. This concept goes beyond psychological momentum and discipline, because, as Saint James points out, God participates more with those who cooperate with the divine plan. If we are serious about our spiritual journey, during the day, we need to express the inspiration we received during our prayer.

    When we have had a good prayer time, it will naturally carry over into the day, anyway. Saints John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila called this carryover coloring. Of course, we want to exploit coloring like any other good window of opportunity. While coloring might seem like a distraction to our next activity, it actually makes us much more focused.

    Our mind is always moving. If we don't use our mind to be with God, we will allow our mind to drift from one appetite to the next. When we are at work, with a little practice, we will be able to concentrate better with our commemoration than without it. As our mind drifts from appetite to appetite, we become more confused. By contrast, when we are closer to God we are more focused and intelligent as demonstrated by Aquinas. Jesus was clear about staying focused. We can not put our hand to the plow, and keep looking back to our old appetites (Luke 9:62). Our day belongs to God, and we need to maintain a prayerful composure throughout the day. We are always moving towards God or away from God.

Striving for Simplicity:

    We should strive to be like God, and God is infinitely simple. A lifestyle of extravangant living has many selfish temptations. It is easy to feel important, protective, or relaxed in an environment of indulgence. While these may not seem to be that much of a handicap, they often stand in the way of God's plan. As servants, we must see the needs of others as something that demands our attention. When we have wealth, insurance, and social esteem, will we abandon everything to follow the Lord like Peter did? How are we exactly carrying out God's plan when we watch 4 hours of television each day? We can not fully live, unless we live for the Lord with a singular intent.

    If we pray, we will be called. The more complicated our life is, the more difficult it will be to follow Peter's example. To make matters worse, the call often seems impossible. We will be given the grace to answer the call, but we won't be able to count the cost. Jesus lived simply and gave everything. If we are going to follow the Lord, we will need to be simple and generous.

Watching Our Appetites:

    Our prayer is for the Body of Christ. We are not as interested in taking care of our own appetites as we are in channeling God's love to the Body of Christ. For example, while meditation may relieve stress, the primary purpose of our prayer is to be instruments of the Divine (not to relieve stress). Love moves us to share our gifts for the common good, whereas selfishness longs to fill an internal need.

    It is not so much that we need to question our intentions which might lead to scruples, but to carry out the inspiration which we received in out meditation. Our ministry is more of a plan than a need. As Saint Francis of Assisi put it, we should strive more to love others than we would seek love for ourselves.

Keeping Our Balance:

    Love is a communal activity. A deep prayer life doesn't necessarily make us immune from poor personal choices. Somewhere along our spiritual journey we are likely to suffer from debilitating scruples, dangerous asceticism, or other personal issues. While our families and communities might not help us with these things, they can hold up a mirror; so we can see them. For example, we should be just as concerned about the moral mistakes in our communities as we are of our own faults, and we wouldn't fast so much that we didn't have the strength to help the less fortunate.

    By far, the larger issue is under commitment. Deep prayer is not something that makes our life better, it is what we build our life around. It is not enough to feel God in our prayer, we pray and believe that we will bring God to the world.
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