August 19, 2010

Being a Prayer

A word from my confessor: "The life of a religious or a priest is only possible as a life of prayer. What does it mean to live a life of prayer? It means to abide in a constant, habitual awareness of God. Therefore it is also a habitual awareness of grace, the grace which is our strength in trial and temptation."

His words reminded me of one of the most challenging questions we friars are asked when we present ourselves for perpetual profession of vows:

Do you wish to serve the Lord and to love, adore, and pray to Him with a pure heart and a pure mind and to be a man of prayer or, better yet, to be made, like Saint Francis, a prayer?

It's startling to imagine that if we still imagine ourselves as people who pray, as if prayer was an activity beside other activities of daily life, we have not yet fully surrendered to the mystery and gift of our baptism. To be caught up completely in the Spirit, drawn up into the overflowing Love and creative Delight of the Blessed Trinity, this is where prayer is going; it is to become ourselves, in Christ, a prayer. "I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20)

And yet, it's also a dangerous idea; it can be pretended to far too early. Once when I was on retreat I met an old priest. I was talking to him about prayer. He said, "When I was young, I used to say that my work was my prayer. And it might have been, had I been praying."


kam said...

Thanks, Brother, for that down to earth advice. Where is that old priest now? I could use a talk with him. k

Anonymous said...

" was my prayer. And it might have been, had I been praying."
It does seem that sometimes regimented prayers are not really prayers, but simply going through the motions. It can be frustrating to feel that way, especially when prayers are added on to an already hectic day. Under such circumstances they aren’t worth saying. Yet there is a benefit to even these rushed prayers. They do reinforce that prayer is a necessity; they are an IOU for real prayers. They also give something to look foreword to; reciting these real prayers when that hectic day slows down.

Author Greg said...

One of the most beautiful posts I have encountered. A true gem.

This has always been what Francis has meant to me, but I have never heard it stated so well.

Thanks, Brother Charles. Peace be with you during your studies.

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

This is a wonderful post!! There are days that I remain in prayer most of the day -- no, not the doing/saying kind of prayer, but the kind of day when you know that God is with you all day long. It is the kind of day when you feel like everything you do, no matter what it is, can be defined simply as spraying love onto everyone in the vicinity. Being a prayer -- I like that expression.

doughboy said...

good post. prayer is as much a discipline and practice as a way of being. it's easy to slip into that way of thinking you can skip your formal prayer and tell yourself that whatever else you're doing is your 'prayer,' especially if your formal prayer is becoming rote. i remind myself that if i'm not feeling particularly spiritual (which is most of the time) or taken up into some other-worldy place in my prayer, or if i'm having a difficult time concentrating, that just the time given to the effort is a prayer. i think our Lord honors that. i just finished reading *the art of praying* by romano guardini. what a gift.