Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
"The Goal of Intensified Prayer"
July 17, 2016
In his book, The Little Prince, author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry frequently uses the literary device of repetition throughout his narrative to bring home to his readers his message: what is essential is invisible to the eye … What is important is in the spirit that can only be discovered with the heart.
Because God is spirit, it is the heart that finds Him.
The Orthodox Church has a very interesting definition of prayer, which is: “to stand before God with the mind in the heart, and to go on standing before Him unceasingly day and night, until the end of life.” It is explained that as long as the mind (reason and intellect) remains in the head, there will be no immediate personal encounter for a believer with God. It will just be a cerebral experience, lacking in depth and conviction. At best he will only know about God, but he will not know God. To know God -- to truly know Him -- requires an exceedingly great love, and “such love must come, not from the brain alone, but from the whole man -- that is, from the heart”. This love requires that together with our intellect, our reason and our will, we descend with our mind into our heart, which is the place where we feel His presence and yield ourselves to Him in humble surrender.
As we humbly surrender in prayer, we fall upon the Rock that is higher than ourselves and God, in His great mercy, comes and raises us up to stand before His presence. Our action in prayer of descending into our hearts and ascending before the throne of God takes us from the physical, human realm into the spiritual, divine realm where God is, and from where He dispenses His rule, His grace and His benefits.
In prayer, we find the Godly wisdom we need for living, His boundless grace for service to others, and His benefits of transformation, renewal and restoration that comes from being in the presence of the Source of All Life. In His presence, we grow increasingly in love with and for God, and in love with and for others.
In his First Epistle to Timothy, St. Paul warns that we live in perilous times, and because we do, we are called to increased or heightened prayer – to go on standing before God unceasingly day and night in gratitude, in praise, in thanksgiving, and in worship. We ask ourselves, how can this be? It is impossible to pray unceasingly, 24/7, we say. With God, nothing is impossible! It is with the mind descending into the heart … so whether it is in a place among men in the concrete jungle of the city, or in a place of silence amidst the untouched beauty of nature, the heart finds God.
Perhaps this is one reason the Lord encourages us to have the faith of a child. Having been given the graceful virtue of faith at baptism, but not yet having had his mind filled with the trust-numbing humanistic principles of modern society, the child easily accepts the unseen, and wholeheartedly embraces communication with his invisible Maker. The resultant natural outflow is that he prays to Him intensely -- from the heart.
May we be granted that same grace, that same faith, that we may intensify our own prayer lives.
BY: SIS. MARILIE F. THURMAN