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Robert Barron - Prayer

Robert Barron - Prayer
TOPICS: Prayer

Well, I saw today about one of the most important things in the spiritual life namely prayer. Here's the first observation about prayer studies have shown that everybody prays Even atheist say that they pray you could almost say that the human being is best characterized as the animal who prays? So, what is prayer? Well go back to John Damascene very early figure who famously Characterized prayer as the raising up of the mind and heart to God it's a beautiful definition good But it probably is too one-sided because I think what that can sound like is that it's all our business. You know here We are raising our minds and hearts to God it's our quest for God.

Well that might be true of many other philosophies and religions But biblical religion is not primarily about our quest for God. It's about God's quest for us alright. So I would say once you see the primacy of Gray's Prayer is God's addressing of us. That's why Herbert McCabe the great Dominican theologian says that Whatever is good and true and right in our prayer is the holy spirit already Praying in us think of even a petitionary prayer. You know when you're asking God for something authentic Petitionary prayer is the holy spirit prompting you to ask for what he wants to give you know so the primacy of the Lord's involvement So both sides are important, but I think the divine side is more important.

You know if I were to sum it up. I would say prayer is a conversation among friends. So it's our friendship with God express now in this lively Conversation so in light of all that I want to make to some really simple Recommendations about prayer to improve your life of prayer here's first one Take the time So many years ago Thomas Merton one of the great spiritual writers of the last century Asked by an interlocutor what what's the one thing I can do to improve my prayer life and he responded with that phrase he said take the time so before you get to techniques and Theological insights and all that.

Take the time every day to converse with God it's most important step now that might mean First thing in the morning it might be a good time like for me. That's a better time for prayer I do a holy hour of right after I wake up a more some people might be the end of the day You know that's a better more prayerful time for them Maybe it's in the car. I've often recommended the car can be a good place to pray when you're usually by yourself If you live right you now in the la area or any of our major cities You're probably stuck in traffic a lot, so it's a little monastic cell. You've got space and time to pray but the main thing is you take the time every day here's a second Dimension L second recommendation about prayer prayer is the act of finding the center.

So our lives are busy they're complicated We're about many things right this and that disappointment than this I'm leaping from idea to idea Obligation obligation if there's something that draws all this together as one is There some central place around which all of this complexity revolves to pray in many ways I think is to find that place.

So again Merton said to pray is to find the place in you, Where you are here, and now being created by God, it's it's lovely idea. Find that still point around which the whole of your life ought to revolve that's what happens when you pray. When Kierkegaard the Philosopher said that the saint is someone whose life is about one thing he might have phrased that as the saint of someone who prays say who's regularly found with center in the third dimension of prayer I think to pray to speak to God with honesty one of the problems in the spiritual order is we tell God what we think God wants to hear we hide behind a lot of Pious language that we think is appropriate you know for prayer and again I have nothing against pipe language, and it serves a very important purpose but at the heart of prayer, I think is a clear and Honest communication.

Think of a friendship you know if you're with a friend But you never tell that friend or your spouse what you really feel what you're really thinking What's really, bugging you? What's really on your mind? Well, that's not going to be much of a friendship, right? so with God Speak with honesty about what's troubling you What's worrying you what's bugging? You what's delighting you? Talk about the messy size of your life You know we've all got them and usually we mask that with other people we don't share that well. God knows anyway, right? He can't toes everything about everything.

So why are you bothering masking it from God? Let him know about your guilt. Let him know about your sin let him know how you're confused at sunroom. I Love that famous story about a lady Who've been in a hospital for many many months her husband was dying and she went to weeks and months of this terrible You know agony with the husband and so one day She came outside the hospital, and it was a catholic hospital dedicated to our lady and there was a statue of mary out in front and the woman just came out and she began picking up clods of dirt and throwing them at the statue of Mary and They went to stop her you know the security man one of the chaplains with a sister Nono held them back and said don't stop her she's praying and I think that's dead right you know that here's a woman who was a woman of Faith She had brought her husband to this catholic hospital.

She was a believer, but she was expressing her great Anger frustration And you think she's not aligned read the phone sounds are filled with people telling God how angry and frustrated and upset they are? so speak with honesty to God I think is a great way to Fourthly and relatedly Listen attentively So the conversation right between you and God if it's one-way You're doing all the talking whether it's in formal language or in this emotional expression. Well that's not much of a conversation, right? I'm going to go say my prayers. You know. I mean. I'll say that and the trouble is then it's just it's one-sided I'm just telling God everything Do I listen to God do I listen to what he says back?

Now I mean does God speak directly Yeah, sometimes in rare cases the lives of the great saints think of mother Teresa who famously heard this voice Of jesus and then didn't hear it for fifty years But she heard this voice calling her to serve the poor support a lot of the saints experience But normally God speaks and much more indirect ways right it might be Through the scripture that you're reading.

So when I pray the office for example is a little priest while you're reading the psalms, is it, you just expressing something or is god speaking to you through the psalms? I think of someone like Ignatius of Loyola who makes us very attentive to our own thoughts and feelings as we meditate as we read the scriptures. so, what am I feeling as I read that path, and what's that doing to me? In my feeling desolation or consolation to use Ignatian's language, Could I construe that as god speaking to me somehow you know? Here's another exercise could I even imagine? What jesus would say now I know it's a little bit delicate because you can can somewhat just like projection.

But you know based on our knowledge of scripture and the tradition and all that Can we as we pose a question to the world can we really imagine pretty accurately well what he would say to us and responsible Can that be a way of discerning the voice of God a lot of different methods, we could talk about but you speak? but you also listen and Then relatedly and finally the role of silence in prayer You know that famous adage of mother Teresa. She talks on the spiritual life she begins with silence You know silence gives rise to prayer and prayer gives rise to Faith and Faith gives rise to Love and love to service make that's the way she does it, but what's interesting is what comes first is silence.

We have a really noisy culture and with our machines now we are constantly Stimulating ourselves right with words and communication and ideas we're talking to each other all the time and listening to each other all the time Do we fit in Silence? allowing God to speak in that space think of course of Elijah here, you know with The wind and the fire and the earthquake and all that comes by, but he doesn't hear God and all that But the tiny whispering voice well you can hear a tiny whispering voice unless you become silent How many of the religious orders are predicated upon?

Silence I think of the one most memorable spiritual moments on life was visiting the Garonne Shalt Hoods and the south of France Really in like the alps area of france and that was the place founded by St. Bruno's the mother house of the Carthesian an order that's radically devoted to Silence now most of that can't be carthusian, but I think we can learn a lot from this Attitude you know Thomas aquinas said the will has two basic moves it. Seeks the good that's absent and so you know we see it and we go after it. But the second move of the will is it it fits in the good that it possesses?

So when you have the good your will rest in it see and that's kind of a silent move if you want it's a Savoring move. I think we're pretty good at the first one. We're seeking all these goods, but then once we get them What do we do with them? We wrestle ego onto something else? Silence Silence when you have the good of God a Silent savoring of that good is key. That's a part of prayer And that's why you know I mentioned the holy hour before and that's been revived Thank God in recent years because you know as a priest. I have to pray the office and I can rattle through my prayers. But if I don't take the time just number one right don't take the time to listen in Silence, then it is just a lot of rattling off of words so silence.

I'll close with a couple of recommendations. I Love the holy hour, so if you can do it that means a dedicated hour every day to prayer This conversation with God if you can find a time take the holy hour Prayer before the bus attacker that also has been revived in recent years it kind of fallen away After the council but I think now it's made a great comeback. It's revived many parishes Spend time before the blessed sacrament with these five recommendations in mind, and then one of my favorites the Jesus prayer Right "Lord, Jesus Christ, son of God have Mercy on me a sinner." That's the whole prayer, but then repeated breathing in with the first half breathing out with the second and Letting that prayer become part of the rhythm of your of your very body I Pray the Jesus prayer now every day. It's important part of my own meditation it Doesn't get you anywhere. It doesn't accomplish a lot. It's very simple calming Centering prayer that draws you back into silence it does all those things so take those five recommendations Follow the deep instinct in your heart that is leading you to pray and do it.
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