So many things in our lives are necessary but challenging, and perhaps none more so than prayer. Prayer sustains the life of our souls, yet it can be hard to pray. Sometimes the challenge lies in making ourselves carry out the practice amid monotony or distractions. For example, many saints had difficulty praying the Rosary, but they did it as a sacrifice exactly because it was difficult for them. For others, the problem is in the concept of prayer itself. Some people do not pray because they feel God is going to do what God is going to do, so why bother? Others do not pray because they have no faith, and still others because they think they are not good enough to pray.
These are all natural human obstacles, but if we truly knew what prayer does for us, no worries or discouragement would hold us back. Prayer nourishes the body and the soul. It is good for everyone, even people who have no faith, because God hears and loves everyone.
Intercessors of the Lamb
I learned much about prayer from my formation in the Intercessors of the Lamb, or, as my wife jokingly liked to refer to it, “the silence of the lambs,” a process I started in February of 2007. It was the best spiritual formation I ever had. There were so many facets to it and I experienced the Trinity in a way I never had before or since. The Intercessors as an organization had some issues, so it no longer exists in the same way it did under Mother Nadine Brown. However, I have had a yearning to reconnect with the lessons and disciplines of the Intercessors of the Lamb, so I began to reread my old prayer journals that I wrote while in formation.
The first lesson we learned was to enter into silence to meet the Lord, and the second was the necessity to journal our quiet time with the Lord. We did this tirelessly and I really loved doing it. I can appreciate my journals even more now because when I reread them, I see what came from me and what came from God. I am amazed at how God communicated to me in so many ways. The reason the Lord intimately communicated with me was not because I am a saint, or good, or pious or holy, but because I was very present to Him entirely in silence and abandonment.
Are You Far From Prayer? Fear Not!
While rereading my journals, searching for guidance and inspiration, I came across a handout I received at one of the Saturday morning Intercessors of the Lamb formations. Purported to be a message from the Blessed Mother, it read: “Dear children! Pray with me to the Holy Spirit for Him to lead you in the search of God’s will on the way of your holiness. And you who are far from prayer, convert and, in the silence of your heart, seek salvation for your soul and nurture it with prayer. I bless you all individually with my motherly blessing. Thank you for having responded to my call.”
As Catholics, we are not obliged to believe private revelations. I look at these “messages” as potential food for the soul. The readers are left to discern for themselves. This message resonated with me when I reread it because it is so powerful.
First, it encourages us to take Mary as our intercessor and prayer partner. She advises we pray with her to the Holy Spirit to learn God’s will for us (which changes all the time; God is never stagnant). We need Mary by our side on this life journey in which we seek the will and the Kingdom of God. Notice that God does not simply manifest His will for us; we need to seek it, to participate in our salvation, and that is a wonderful gift right there. When people are on a religious pilgrimage or on a trip to a foreign city, they hire a local tour guide, someone who knows the terrain. Who better than Our Lady to help us navigate this spiritual journey while on this terrestrial plane?
“In the Silence of Your Heart”
The next part is the invitation to silence: “And you who are far from prayer, convert and, in the silence of your heart, seek salvation for your soul and nurture it with prayer.” I could probably write a thousand-page dissertation on this one powerful line, but I will keep it concise. Even those of us who pray are far from prayer at times. We can get slothful or just beaten down by the everyday grind and prayer falls by the wayside. However, here we see Our Lady giving us a quick and easy method of praying. All we need to do is enter into silence, the silence of our hearts.
The great Cure D’Ars, St. John Vianney, once told of an encounter he had with a man he saw sitting in the church every day, just staring at the Blessed Sacrament exposed for veneration on the altar. The man just sat there day in and day out. He neither said nor did anything. St. John eventually went over to the man and asked him what he was doing. The man replied simply, “I look at the good Lord and He looks at me.”
This quiet togetherness is like the intimate moments of silence between lovers. They have no need to talk; simply being with the beloved is enough. It is the same with the spouse of our souls. Just being present to Him in silence by thinking of Him, imagining Him in the Blessed Sacrament, making a spiritual communion, a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, or howsoever you like to think of the Lord is being present to Him in the silence of your heart. No words or thoughts need be said. This prayer will nurture your bodies and your souls.
If you are far from prayer, fear not. Make your New Year resolution a building project. Build your interior church, a place where you meet the Lord in silence, any time and any place. You can visit Him throughout the day, make spiritual acts of communion, just think about a certain image or experience, or whatever brings you close to the Lord. Remember that building projects take time. You don’t have to rush it; you can rest from building it and resume it when you can, but keep building and remain encouraged. God loves you, no matter who you are or where you are spiritually, be it the desert or an oasis!
Wishing all my readers a very blessed 2020. May our spiritual vision, too, be “20/20.” Amen.