In the silence of prayer, we come to appreciate that we are infinitely holy as temples of God's own Spirit. We come to understand that our true vocation is to look upon and contemplate the glorious Trinity, and in the process to be made divine ourselves.
By praying we learn to live as fully as possible in the present moment. In our stillness we seek to enter as fully as we can into the NOW, the eternal NOW, and in entering into the NOW to live as fully as possible with the NOW-Risen and ever loving Lord Jesus.
For many praying is an activity for which we are responsible, and which is our duty to do each day. Those who see prayer as such deny themselves the true riches of prayer life. Firstly prayer is not something we can turn on and off when it suits us. Our whole living is prayer because prayer is the life of the glorified Christ through the Spirit within us. The Spirit is always within us, but it is when He is allowed to live and be alive within our hearts, that is, we become intoxicated by Him, that we become a praying person.
I sometimes like to think of prayer as being a rainbow. A rainbow can arch the whole horizon showing exquisitely its whole spectrum of colours, or it can be very dismal and hardly perceptible against the greyness of the clouds. It all depends on the sun.
I would like you to look at that magnificent arch lighting up the whole heavens with its spectrum of colours. In that spectrum we discover the various facets of prayer. Each is needed to make the rainbow colourful.
The FIRST is GIVING GOD HIS WORTH by lifting up our hearts to Him in praise. "I will worship you in gladness of heart." It is the only colour of the spectrum that will never vanish.
Give praise to the Lord, O my soul,
all my being, praise His holy name,
give praise to the Lord, O my soul,
remember the kindnesses of God. (ps. 102/3)
Another colour is admitting how much we have saddened God by the many, many times we have failed Him through our many, many sins, most of which stem from our self-centredness.
One of the most suitable psalms to express our penitence is
It bids us to confess:
I will confess the wrong I have done,
I remember all my sins;
I have sinned against you alone.
It bids us to ask for God's mercy:
Have mercy on me, God in your love,
in your compassion blot out my sins;
wash away the stain of my faults,
let me be pure from all my misdeeds.
It bids us to seek purity:
So give me, O God, a pure heart,
my spirit makes new within;
do not thrust me far from your face,
do not take your Spirit away.
It bids us to pray to be made loving and obedient:
Give me back the joy of your love,
a heart willing to obey.
The 12th C. Richard of St. Victor expresses the whole purpose of self-examination by the individual like this:
The soul finds in itself the chief and principal mirror for seeing God. Let him who desires to see God wipe his mirror and cleanse his heart. When the mirror has been cleansed and examined a long time carefully, a brightness of the divine light begins to shine through to him and a great beam of illumination not known hitherto appears before our eyes.
A contrite heart which humbly confesses its sins, experiences the same joy of the prodigal son in the Gospel we heard read last Sunday. We are all prodigal sons. We need to be penitent people if we are to be humble. Our Lord taught us that humility is one of the great virtues. Indeed humility is nothing but truth, and acknowledging oneself for what one is. Humility makes us free to live without any pretension or shame.
A THIRD colour is THANKSGIVING. Our very first thought each day as a Christian is one of thanks - thanks for safe keeping through the night, and thanks for another day to worship and live in the presence of the Living Spirit, and the spontaneity and love He gives and brings to each day. We can also find something at the end of each day to return our thanks to God. Even if it has been a beastly day, at least we have survived it, and that is worth giving thanks for.
I give you thanks, O Lord, with all my heart:
you have heard the words of my mouth;
in the presence of angels I will sing,
towards your temple I will bow down.
I give you thanks for your kindness and your truth,
all your promises excel your renown;
when I called, you answered my prayer,,
you increased the strength of my soul. (ps. 138)
INTERCEDING is yet another. Once we are baptized we are made part of Christ's family, and so as members of this large community we support one another by our daily intercessions. Although God knows the needs of all His children before we ask, He never tires of hearing our petitions based on trust and belief for those people and situations in need of healing, reconciliation, peace love, tolerance, understanding, faith and strength. However depressing the world may seem at times, we must believe that :
The Lord reigns over the world.
He lifts up the weak from the dust (ps.113)
He gives help freely to the poor. (Ps. 112)
He heals the broken in heart,
He binds up all their wounds (Ps. 147)
How righteous you are, O Lord!
How just in your ways!
You lay down the demands of Your truth,
With faithfulness and love. (Ps. 119)
Yet in a real sense we must acknowledge that it is not "I" who prays, but it is Jesus within me Who is the true Intercessor.
Part of our asking prayers include petitions on our own behalf. Our main petition each day is that the Lord's will be done in me. We also pray for love, grace, wholeness, faithfulness on,and direction for our pilgrimage:
A pilgrim I am on the earth
do not hide your commands;
with longing, my soul is consumed,
with desire for your decrees. (Ps.118/9)
Guide me in the ways of your commands,
for there alone is my joy;
incline my heart to fulfill your will,
and not towards wealth. (Ps.118/9)
Instruct me Lord in your ways,
and teach me to walk in your truth. (Ps. 85/6)
The FIFTH colour is what I call simply BEING AND ABSORBING OR BREATHING IN GOD as it were. It really means enjoying just being in the presence of God. One of the lovely ways of doing this is to be still in the presence of the Lord in the special way He has given us. "I look at Him and He looks at me," before the Blessed Sacrament is a time of great joy. In a very special way this is prayer on its highest level.
Come to the altar of God;
for you are my God, I give thanks,
O God, I adore!
Give thanks to the Lord for He is good,
for everlasting is His love. (Ps.118)
All prayer is basically the experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit, and so our being in stillness allows us to be more susceptible to this Spirit. The more we are content to be with our Lord, the more simple life becomes for us. So many things we thought were important for our existence suddenly become unimportant or even unncessary. If our life seems over complicated we have to understand it is we who do the complicating, and therefore we have to be rid of it if we are truly to be the children of God.
All who take shelter in the Lord,
and dwell in the shadow of our God,
may call him: My Fortress, my Shield,
my God in whom is my trust. (Ps.91)
To you I life up my prayer,
make reply, at the hour you choose;
answer soon, for great is your love,
my God, you have promised to save. (Ps.69)
We shall discover when we persevere in quiet or mental prayer it will penetrate our whole being.
Accustom yourself gradually to let
your mental prayer spread over all
your daily external occupations.
Speak, act, work quietly, as though
you were praying, as indeed you ought
Francois de la Mothe -Fénelon
Enjoying being in the presence of the Living God joins the next colour -LISTENING
Speak Lord for your servant hears.
Come my children, listen to me:
and I will teach you the fear of the Lord. (ps. 34:11)
We all need to be a little Samuel. Making ourselves susceptible to hearing God only comes from freeing ourselves from self. While we are ever engrossed in our selves, our problems, anxieties and fears, we shall never hear that small voice. So each day we find a time which is ours and where the environment is inducive to listening, that is, quiet, peaceful, gentle. May be the only time for this is getting up early each day before the hurly-burly begins, or spending part of our lunch time retreating from our daily work or occupation.
I listen to all that God says,
and the words of God speak of peace,
of peace for his people, his friends,
for all who return with repentance of heart. (Ps.85)
The last colour is PUBLIC PRAYER, what we do collectively as members of our Christian community. We are the Lord's people who gather around His table doing what the Lord commanded us to do.
I will go to the altar of God,
He is the fountain of joy. (Ps. 43)
My soul is thirsting for God,
for the living God;
when shall I come and behold
the face of God? (Ps. 42)
We are never as close to Christ and to our fellow Christians when we receive our Lord at the altar rails. "The kingdom of God is within you," as I am in you and you in me. The Eucharist gives us a growing awareness of our unity with all peoples, with all creation and above all with the Trinitarian God.
The Eucharist enables us to be caught up in the great Mystery of God, Life and ourselves. It enables us to be lost "in wonder, love and praise" for everything the Blessed Trinity has and is doing. It enables us to see that God takes the common things of life - bread - wine - in order to give us the Living Bread and the cup of eternal salvation.
Our thanksgiving after receiving the Sacrament should express our heartfelt joy and thankfulness for receiving Love.
O Jesus, receive my poor offering. Jesus you have given yourself to me, and now let me give myself to you:
I give you my body, that it may be chaste and pure.
I give you my soul, that it may be free from sin.
I give you my heart, that it may always love you.
I give you every breath that I shall breathe, and especially my last.
I give you myself in life and in death, that I may be yours for ever.