In the Catechism lessons of my Eighth Grade, I learned that prayer was a lifting of the heart and mind to God.  During one of my Lectio Divina (Phil 2:5) meditations (on the way to contemplation), I thought about the high ceilings of St. Francis Xavier School, on the second floor, large windows from floor to ceiling, two grades to a room, and no air conditioning. You do as you can.

I learned about prayer as thinking about God in the way that I thought about my mom and dad, sometimes I was angry with them, but much more likely, I respected them and wanted to be like both of them. As a Lay Cistercian, all these memories came swirling back as dry leaves on the front lawn reach to the sky, all the wonderful memories and smells of being in a place with lots of wood floors and stairs. Prayer then is as it is now. What has changed is me, my lessons learned, my faults accepted and some of them overcome, my attempts to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus. All of this is prayer because I lift it up to God as my gift, my praise and glory to the Father who allowed me to be an adopted son and a brother to Christ.

All of the times I wanted to stay away from my Cistercian prayers of Eucharist and Liturgy of the Hours because I was lazy, all those times I convinced myself that I needed to have balance and I was praying too much, the times I was tempted to think God is not needed in my life, all are prayer. It sounds strange to think that your offer up your struggles as an acceptible sacrifice to the Father, but that is part of the maturation of prayer that happens to those who run the race seeking the finish line.  It takes work to run the race.

Psalm 36

Human Wickedness and Divine Goodness

To the leader. Of David, the servant of the Lord.

Transgression speaks to the wicked
    deep in their hearts;
there is no fear of God
    before their eyes.
For they flatter themselves in their own eyes
    that their iniquity cannot be found out and hated.
The words of their mouths are mischief and deceit;
    they have ceased to act wisely and do good.
They plot mischief while on their beds;
    they are set on a way that is not good;
    they do not reject evil.

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
    your judgments are like the great deep;
    you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
    and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light we see light.

10 O continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
    and your salvation to the upright of heart!
11 Do not let the foot of the arrogant tread on me,
    or the hand of the wicked drive me away.
12 There the evildoers lie prostrate;
    they are thrust down, unable to rise.

(emphases mine)

Prayer is the accumulation of your heart lifted up to God in humility and obedience to God’s will. We join this lifting with the gifts at the eucharist, lifted up by the priest to the Father with the Son in union with the Holy Spirit. It is all prayer.


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