Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mental Prayer, Part 4

Wisdom calls, “Let whoever is simple turn in here; To the one who lacks understanding, come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding.” ~~Proverbs 9:1-6

It's been a week now and I admit there were times I thought I was crazy to have started this ‘mental prayer’. There were also times I wondered where God was? Here I am trying to pray and nothing is happening. I mean NOTHING! I’m thinking to myself, ‘This is the biggest waste of time ever. I could be doing A, B, C ... Z!’ And then came yesterday – the biggest setback of all. Here's what happened...

I could barely make myself get to work on time at 6:30. We had extended hours for back-to-school sales and I asked for early hours so I could get to evening Mass, but then I was still tired from working late the night before, etc., etc., so I decide to fore go getting up even earlier and instead devote my lunch hour to my mental prayer.

My lunch time comes, I down my coffee, head for the Blessed Sacrament Chapel (5 minutes away) for a peaceful prayer time and there’s a funeral going on at our parish. Where am I supposed to go?! Where can you find 30 minutes of quiet at a busy shopping mall on the Saturday before schools resume? I sit in my hot car, first with my air conditioning on, then with it off and hot Oklahoma winds blowing through open windows.

Do I need to tell you it wasn’t a good prayer time? I caught my mind wandering; no that's an understatement—I couldn’t stop my mind from wandering. Oh great! God, this is hopeless! I’m supposed to be here praying and look at what I’m thinking?! I drug my wayward mind back and there it went again. I was thinking dishonest, playful and even prideful thoughts, and then grumpy, frustrated, disorganized ones until finally I started to veer off into despair. WOW! How can anyone get herself in so much trouble just trying to pray?! Then it dawned on me. Calm down booklady. This is perfectly normal. The mind is an undisciplined, runaway young colt; you know that. That’s the whole point of this mental prayer: to learn good mental habits, to learn how to ignore, overcome and eventually transcend these episodes. Just another step along the road of training...

So I thanked God for the lesson, closed my prayer session with formal prayers—which I was very, very grateful to fall back on—and returned to work.

Today, my mental prayer session was the most profitable, in terms of actual things I took away from it, of any I’ve had so far. These are the realizations I had:

1. I’ve engaged in mental prayer many times in life without knowing I was doing it.
a. Usually I read a book, often Holy Scripture, for a period of time, then closed my eyes and used it as the basis for my conversation with God.

b. Several years I had prayer journals with selections from spiritual classics (Imitation of Christ, God Calling and Streams in the Desert) which I read and wrote in. As the writings were directed to God—much as a friend writing a letter to another friend—they constitute another form of mental prayer.

c. My belief is most devout people engage in a regular practice of mental prayer, either with or without realizing they are actually doing so.

2. Morning mental prayer needs to be combined with daily Mass and regular Confession as much as possible.

3. It seems to be allowing me to let go of things more easily, i.e., I don’t find myself as troubled by events, people or even my own follies and sins. Things that in the past would have stayed with me for days, I resolve in hours or less. Other matters, even more quickly. I just seem able to let go and move on.

4. I find myself with a longing to love more deeply – as Jesus does – and an awareness of how often I usually don’t.

5. There’s a growing awareness of His Presence and an abiding sense of Trust in Him.

Jesus said to the crowds: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” ~~John 6:51

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