GET SPECIFIC IN YOUR PRAYER
When trying to devote whatever time I have left to prayer, as I promised to do when making my final promises as a Lay Cistercian, I have noticed a few thing that are important about my general prayer life. Sometimes my prayer life seems like a path with no destination, a way covered by snow or rocky. In those times I like to think of the saying, “Just because your road is rocky, doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road.” Here are some ideas about prayer as I trudge along the path of life, hoping I stay on the road of meaning and reach Christ. They are listed in no order of importance.
- Try as I might, I can’t focus on Christ every minute, every second in prayer. If it means sitting in Chapel for hours on end, using solitude, silence, approaching The Sacred in humility and an open heart, listening with what St. Benedict calls the “the ear of the heart”, then, in one sense, I am a failure. It could mean that, and some of the great mystics (St. John of the Cross, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Bernard) may have been able to build up their capacity for prolonged prayer, but that is not me. Prayer for a Lay Cistercian, at least this broken-down, old, temple of the Holy Spirit, is not carving out eight or nine hours per day, seven days a week, stand before the Blessed Sacrament proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes again in glory (I stopped kneeling before Our Lord about ten years ago). I wish I could do that. Where I find myself is trying to implement what the monks, Brothers Michael and Cassian, have taught us about prayer, specifically that is should be balanced, simple, centered on Christ, being open to the Spirit with a spirit of humility and obedience to what Christ tell us, as Mary whispered to those at the Wedding Feast of Cana. There is another dimension to prayer that I am using, one that I came across because of my own deficiencies and old age. It is that of specificity.
- Specificity for me is a sign of contradiction, in that it actually seems to be generic. How is that for a conundrum? It happens when I first get up (about 4:30 a.m.). No I am not a monk. The dog gets us up at 5:00 a.m. each day, don’t ask me how. Being up, when my feet touch the floor, I have made a practice to offer the whole day as a prayer. I have specific intentions for each day in addition to my Morning Offering to seek God in anything that comes up during my day and offering it up to the Father as praise and glory through Christ. I always add, “in reparation for my sins” and for the grace to “have in me the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) Some days I may forget it and have to reconsecrate the day to God with the prayer to have mercy of me, a sinner. No one can see me doing this. No one knows I am doing this. This specific act of prayer is generic, in that I don’t have to consciously be in chapel every hour. I use the admonition of St. Benedict, “that in all things, God be glorified.”
- Targeted prayers are those that link me with a specific theme, person, or intention. For me, I don’t like a litany of targeted prayers, because I also try to be specific and simple in my lifting of my heart and mind to God. Remember, all this is just the way I do it. A few days ago, I was honored to be asked to give a talk to the inmates at Wakulla (Florida) Correctional Institution. It is one of the few Faith-Based prisons in the State of Florida. To minister to the Catholics (and anyone else who wants it), volunteers from our parishes of Good Shepherd, Blessed Sacrament and St. Louis in Tallahassee, volunteer to be Eucharistic ministers, and meetings with the men. Our priests try to offer the Eucharist and Reconciliation weekly. My talk was for veterans but I used the theme of love to seek to dig deeper into the meaning of remembering those who have served, their wives or husbands, and their moms and dads. Seven weeks earlier, I offered the men some ideas about the Foundations of Contemplative Spirituality (my thoughts) that include: What is the purpose of life? What is the purpose of your life? What does reality look like? How does it all fit together? How to love fiercely? You know you are going to die, now what? These will be the same themes I will use on August 19-22, 2019 at a retreat at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit (Trappist). You should try to attend.
- Prayer is lifting the heart and mind to God. When driving to Morning Prayer at Good Shepherd Church, I see the way the sun coats the green trees with regal gold and give thank to God. Just a moment, very specific in time, transforming my heart from self to God. It only takes a moment, a specific moment. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5n3hZK4YIo
What follows is a commentary on the Canticle of Daniel by Saint Pope John Paul II. I would recommend you read it and pray that you become what you read. http://oblatesosbbelmont.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Daniel_3a.pdf
- In my quest to seek God, my prayer has become more specific without my even trying.
- I don’t pray as much for World peace as I do for me to be an instrument of peace (St. Francis of Assisi).
- I don’t pray as much for an end to abortion as I do that I respect life and radiate the life of Christ in silence and solitude throughout the day.
- I don’t pray as much for my family members to return to the love of Christ and the true fullness of their Faith, which is my number one prayer intention, as I do that I renew my own commitment to mercy and forgiveness and ask God to have mercy of me, a sinner.
- I don’t pray for long periods of time, but rather offer my own day, with all its ups and downs, to the Father, that in all things, God be glorified.
Praise be to God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen –-Cistercian doxology