There is always something more that a hungry soul can learn about prayer. I found this to be true during a brief presentation Father John Denburger, OCSO offered at a recent retreat I made at the Abbey at the Genesee in Piffard, New York
I hope I can do justice to the pearls he shared with us. The most important relationship we are called to develop in this life," Father began, "is our relationship with God and His with us." Prayer is essential. If one does not pray, there can be no fruitful relationship between God and man.
St. Maria Faustina Kowalska confirms Father's teaching, telling us that there are no exceptions to this command to pray:
"In whatever state a soul may be, it ought to pray. A soul which is pure and beautiful must pray, or else it will lose its beauty; a soul which is striving after this purity must pray, or else it will never attain it; a soul which is newly converted must pray, or else it will fall again; a sinful soul, plunged in sins, must pray so that it might rise again. There is no soul which is not bound to pray, for every single grace comes to the soul through prayer."
So what is prayer?
Over the centuries, many saints and spiritual writers have offered various definitions. I am particularly fond of what St. John Damascene wrote: "Prayer is an elevation or ascent of the soul to God." Maybe you might prefer St. Augustine's perspective: "Your prayer is like a conversation with God. When you read, God speaks to you; when you pray, you speak to Him." There are countless other descriptions that may speak to your heart.
In the end, prayer is a very personal matter. Father John reminded us "prayer is always a grace" and recommended that before we begin to pray, we should ponder this Truth - "God loves us into prayer."
Ever get frustrated over constant distractions while you try to pray? You are not alone. Father emphasized that distractions will always be a part of our prayer life. There is nothing we can do about it. If you need further encouragement on this subject recall the wisdom of St. Alphonsus Liguori: "if you have many distractions at prayer, that prayer of yours may well be upsetting the devil a great deal."
What Father next said made sense - there is good prayer and bad prayer and it is essential that we know the difference! How do we make that determination? - by what shows up in our life. If after praying, we go right out and lie, steal, yell, slander or act uncharitably, then we know with absolute certainty that neither we nor our prayer are relating to God in the fashion He desires and deserves. Good prayer, on the other hand, is always followed by a sense of joy, generosity, love, patience, peace, etc.
What Father next discussed intrigued me and is the choicest of the pearls he shared. He reminded us that Jesus sees us as we actually are, while we see ourselves in a limited, imperfect and distorted way. He knows better than we what we should be praying for.
So why is this simple truth so important.? Because in Hebrews 7:25 we are told that Jesus is forever interceding before the Father on our behalf! There can be no more important or better prayer than His. Jesus knows exactly what we need! Oh, if we only knew what our Lord is specifically asking for on our behalf, we too could offer the same prayer to our heavenly Father.
What an immense grace and magnificent gift it would be, were we able to align our prayers with the specific intercessory prayers Jesus offers on our behalf. Father John asks for that grace and so should we