Prayer

 

Prayer is to religion what original research is to science.

P. T. Forsythe

 

Prayer is the restorer of the frame, the meaning, the restorer of human faces, the inward cleanser of the distortions of action just as action is the clarifier and tester of prayer's real intent and of its genuine commitment.

Prayer is a principal agency of collection from dispersion.

Douglas Steere - Together in Solitude

 

If the only prayer you say in your whole life is "thank you"; that would suffice.

Meister Eckhart

 

Stand guard over your spirit, keeping it free of concepts at the time of prayer so that it may remain in its own deep calm. Thus he who has compassion on the ignorant will come to visit even such an insignificant person as yourself. That is when you will receive the most glorious gift of prayer.

Cloud of Unknowing

 

The root of prayer is interior silence. We may think of prayer as thoughts or feelings expressed in words, but this is only one of its forms. "Prayer", according to Evagius, "is the laying aside of thoughts". This definition presupposes that there are thoughts. Contemplative prayer is not so much the absence of thoughts as detachment from them. It is the opening of mind and hear, body and emotions - our whole being - to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond words, thoughts, and emotions - beyond, in other words, the psychological content of the present moment. We do not deny or repress what is in our consciousness. We simply accept the fact of whatever is there and go beyond it, not by effort, but by letting go of whatever is there.

 

Thomas Keating - Open Mind Open Heart

Within us is a meeting place with God, who strengthens and invigorates our whole personality, and makes us new creatures, with new values and estimates of the world about us, seen through the eyes of direct and spontaneous love. A leveling of earthly eminences and of earthly obscurities takes place. The tempests and inner strains of self-oriented living grows still. We learn to be worked through; serenity takes the place of anxiety, fretful cares are replaced by a deep and certain assurance. Something of the cosmic patience of God Himself becomes ours, and we walk in quiet assurance and boldness; for He is with us, His rod and His staff they comfort us.

How then does one enter upon the internal life of prayer? Dynamic living is not imparted to us by one heavy visitation of God, but comes from continuous inner mental habits pursued through years. Inside of us there ought to go on a steady, daily, hourly process of relating ourselves to the Divine Goodness, of opening our lives to His warmth and love, of steadfast surrender to Him, and of sweet whisperings with Him such as we can tell no one about at all. . . . Practice it steadily. Make it your conscious intention. Keep it up for days and weeks and years. You will be swept away by rapt attention to the exciting things going on around you. Then catch yourself and bring yourself back. You will forget God for whole hours. But do not waste any time in bitter regrets or self-recriminations. Just begin again. The first weeks and months of such practice are pretty patchy, badly botched. But say inwardly to yourself and to God, "This is the kind of bungling person I am when I am not wholly Thine. But take this imperfect devotion of these months and transmute it with Thy love."

But let us examine more closely this life of inner prayer.

First, there is what I can only call the prayer of oblation, the prayer of pouring yourself out before God. You pray inwardly, " Take all of me, take all of me." . . . . Then there is the prayer of song.


Phrases run through the background of your mind. "Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me, bless His holy name." . . .Then there is the prayer of listening.

Perhaps this is not a separate type of prayer, but an element that interlaces the whole of the internal prayer-life. . . . A specific state of expectancy, of openness of soul is lad bare and receptive before the Eternal Goodness. In quietness we wait, inwardly, in unformulated expectation. . . .Perhaps because I am a Quaker I find the prayer of expectation and of listening easiest to carry on in the silence of solitary and of group meditation. . . . A fourth form of inner prayer is what I call the prayer of carrying.

This I shall not try to develop now, but . . . it consists essentially in a well-nigh continuous support, in prayer, of some particular souls who are near to you in the things of the inner life.

I must, however, speak more at length of a fifth aspect of internal prayer. The Catholic books call it infused prayer. There come times to some people at least, when one’s prayer is given one, as it were from beyond oneself. Most of the time we ourselves seem to pick the theme of our prayer. We seem to be the conscious initiators. We decide what prayers we shall lift before the Throne. But there come amazing times, in the practice of prayer, when our theme of prayer is laid upon us, as if initiated by God Himself. . . . In the experience of infused prayer there seems to be some blurring of the distinctions between the one who prays, the prayer that is prayed, and the One to whom the prayer is prayed.

I have tried, in these words, to keep very close to the spirit and practice of my three dearest spiritual friends and patterns, outside of Jesus of Nazareth. They are Brother Lawrence, and St. Francis of Assisi, and John Woolman.

 

Thomas R. Kelly - The Reality of the Spiritual World