Friday, 5 August 2011

Reflection on Prayer

"Prayer is the raising of the mind and heart to God." That definition in the catechism remains, for my part at any rate, the best of all definitions of prayer. But one word was omitted: trying. Prayer is trying to raise our minds and hearts to God.

The only failure in prayer is when we neglect it. The only 'success' in prayer is the sense of God's presence, or a deep peace and sense of well-being, a marvellous moment of inner freedom. When that comes, it is a special gift from God. We have no claim on it, we cannot demand it. Our part is to turn to Him as best we can, trying to raise our minds and hearts to Him.

Friendships need space to develop and grow strong. Friends must waste time together. It is also thus in prayer. Prayer is making friends with God and He with us. Prayer is trying to focus the mind on God, and to admit Him into our hearts. Prayer is wasting time with God. Prayer needs space to develop and grow strong. Reading and reflecting, either alone or with others, on passages from the Gospel leads to our focusing our minds on Christ, his words and actions. It is the discovering of a friend. It is the beginning of prayer.

We cannot get to God Himself except in so far as He enables us to do so. More often than not we get no further than the sense of a presence which is beyond words, images, ideas. It can be likened to being in a room, dark and silent, with a loved one - no words being spoken, no sight vouchsafed, just a sense of the presence of the other. These moments of 'presence' are gift from God, frequent for some, rare for others. Being gift they are neither of right or reward, but more likely to occur to one faithful in prayer and in life.

When you get no consolation in prayer, when you feel you are getting nowhere, that may be the best prayer you have ever said, because you are doing it not for your sake, but for God's. Always seek the God of consolation; never seek the consolations of God. It is always that way round.

Quite often we are in a kind of distraught mood, and simply don't know how to pray, feeling that deep sense of being lost. It is good at such times to see oneself rather like the lost sheep in the parable caught in the briars, surrounded by fog; the more you try to escape from the brambles the more you get entangled. The more you try to rush through the fog the more likely you are to get lost. When you are in that mood just wait in your prayer, wait for Him to come and disentangle you."
Cardinal Basil Hume

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