Friday, 9 December 2011

Authentic Prayer

Following on from my previous posts I want to think a little more about experience. We live in an experience-orientated culture in the West and we use it to measure all kinds of things like truth, authenticity, quality of life etc.. And this attitude can seep, quietly, into our attitude to prayer where we are under severe temptation tomeasure it's effectiveness and it's realty on the basis of whether we feel anything or 'get' anything back from the time we invest in doing it. It's a real problem when you make the praying of the Jesus Prayer a daily routine and an integral part of your prayer life.

As a busy parish priest I wonder sometimes if I am getting anywhere with it - a difficulty compounded by the fact that there is no way of really knowing in the short term whether you are doing it properly or not; or whether I should be doing something that is a more productive use of what little time I seem to have each day to pray. An 'experience' of any kind therefore - whether it's a warm spiritual glow of some sort or some kind of sense that you are 'connecting' with God at some level - would surely be some kind of welcome encouragement to help us persevere in saying the prayer.

But this is where faith and perseverance come in - the belief that I am getting somewhere, or doing the right thing and that good things come as a result of self-discipline and a seeking after the Giver rather than His gifts.

I was massively helped in this by a 16th century monk from the West called Brother Lawrance whose writing have been compiled into a little book called "Practicing the Presence of God". Here is what he writes in his 'Second Conversation' recorded in his book:

"Brother Lawrence said that he was always guided by love. He was never influenced by any other interest, including whether or not he was saved. He was content doing even the smallest chore if he could do it for the love of God. He even found himself quite well off, which he attributed to the fact that he sought only God and not his gifts. He believed that God is much greater than any of the simple gifts He gives us. Rather than desiring them from Him, he chose to look beyond the gift, hoping to learn more about God Himself. Sometimes he even wished that he could avoid receiving his reward, so that he would have the pleasure of doing something soley for God."

In a nutshell Lawrence reminds us that our desire should be for God alone and not His gifts, for God is "much greater than any of the simple gifts He gives us". So I am encouraged to keep on perevering with the Jesus Prayer out of love for God rather than any experience that may or may not come. The authenticity of my prayer does not come from what I receive from God, but what I can give Him in and by my praying.

No comments:

Post a Comment