There is nothing wrong with thinking about what is in it for me, when I do Cistercian practices and charisms. We humans have two characteristics that other animals don’t: we have the ability to reason and to act on that reasoning by choosing what we think is good for us. There are always consequences to my choices. I can remember one of my Professors at the I.U. School of Business in Bloomington, Indiana, telling us that no one chooses anything that they think will be bad for them. With respects to B.F. Skinner, the operant conditioning approach to choice is based on the assumption that, being like animals, humans will always make choices that will not hurt them but make them happy and fulfilled.
As I reflected on this concept, while praying my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I most always try to measure concepts I have experienced in the past and tie them to my one center. I asked myself, “Why am I doing Lectio Divina, anyway?” Let me share with you a different take on the answer that came to me.
An examination of conscience led me to think of my different motives for doing Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, and Scriptural Reading, to name a few.
Matthew 6: Teaching About Prayer. 5“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.6But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.7* In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.*8Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” http://www.usccb.org
Contemplative prayer is going into that inner room, closing the door, and praying to the Father in secret. Silence and solitude are conditions that allows me to shut the door and just sit there in the presence of Christ. The father knows what I need so I don’t need to babble like the pagans and pray lots of audible or fill up the dead space with my words. What I want is to listen to what Christ is telling me.
2. Do I guide my being in the presence of Christ or do I let Christ form the agenda? If I sit on that park bench in the dead of winter and long for Christ to sit down next to me, do I expect Christ to do as I want? “Christ is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow.” Here is what St. Paul says in Hebrews 13. I am trying to give you the context of these ideas rather than quote something just to justify my thinking.
1* Let mutual love continue.2Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.a3Be mindful of prisoners as if sharing their imprisonment, and of the ill-treated as of yourselves, for you also are in the body.b4Let marriage be honored among all and the marriage bed be kept undefiled, for God will judge the immoral and adulterers.c5Let your life be free from love of money but be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never forsake you or abandon you.”d6Thus we may say with confidence:
“The Lord is my helper, [and] I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?”e7Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.f9Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teaching.* It is good to have our hearts strengthened by grace and not by foods, which do not benefit those who live by them.g“ http://www.usccb.org
This beautiful passage is a feast of wonderful insights. Christ will never forsake or abandon us. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. When I sit on that park bench waiting for the Lord, he is and always will be there for me. I am the one who must be aware that all I have to do is rest, be quiet, be still, and abandon my agenda and wait.
Saying prayers of thanksgiving and petitions for mercy to Christ is one thing, praying for the grace to become what I pray is a deeper penetration into the Mystery of Faith.