Life has many twists and turns…just like a roller coaster. If you have ever been on a roller coaster, there are two emotions people generally feel. The first is terror…this utter feeling like you are going to die… and the second is excitement…EXTREME excitement. If we compare our lives to a roller coaster ride, we can say that it consists of times of sadness and sorrow, but also times of great joy and excitement! We cannot always predict where God is leading us on our spiritual journey…sometimes all we know for sure is that every experience that we have is an opportunity to love Jesus more… He is leading us closer to Himself. But no matter how intense the twists and turns of life, no matter how many bumps and bruises we may receive along the way, God is always at work healing our hearts.
Conversion happens when we can learn to call God “Father.” Jesus taught His Apostles to call God “Father” when he gave us the Our Father. Jesus gave us the parable of the Prodigal Son in order for us to see God as he is…a merciful, loving Father. He has his arms outstretched ready to embrace us…we just need to call on him and he comes to meet us! That is the love of a Father…he comes to meet us.
So, we have been making our way through the purgative stage of our spiritual journey. We have already talked about the initial conversion and the trials and temptations within this stage; however, we need to explain one key aspect about the purgative stage which we can call the “healing stage.” We are now turning towards God through our conversion experiences. We are coming to see what trials and temptations befall us the most. But now, we are in the process of healing. One important step towards healing is developing an ongoing relationship with Jesus in prayer.
Because our senses are so powerful and worldly attractions are so rooted in our nature, a greater love for God needs to flame in us. A common occurrence for people in this stage is to see prayer as a boring activity and a “waste of time” especially if we do not see the fruits. We must realize that we need prayer…even before that we need to recognize that we need God.
Real healing of our hearts will come when we begin to have lives of prayer. Our relationship with God in prayer is much like our human relationships which need time, attention and care for them to continue to grow. Our prayers can be spontaneous, “Lord help me!” or, like a good and wise priest always prays, “Jesus mercy, Mary help!” We need to be honest and real with God when we pray…we can’t fool him…He is God. What is most important is that we believe with all our heart that whatever we ask God in prayer, he hears every petition and will answer every prayer, perhaps not in the way that we expect! God sees the big picture…we just see a little tiny portion of the picture. The point is, we need to trust that God knows what is best for us…we need to trust Him! Being attentive to God is so key at this stage. St. Therese of Lisieux tells us concerning prayer: “How great is the power of Prayer!…Prayer is an aspiration of the heart, it is a simple glance toward heaven, it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy…it expands my soul and unites me to Jesus.” Teresa of Avila also made the point that it does not matter whether our prayers are memorized or not said out loud that determines their value but whether or not we try to pay attention that counts.
Many saints offer suggestions on how to pray well. We all struggle with prayer sometimes, so it is good to look at saint writings for some help. If we look at St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises for example we will see a few steps to help us grow in our prayer life. Placing ourselves in God’s Presence realizing that God is very near and in the depth of your heart is very key. If we struggle with this we need to ask God for help. Say “Lord please help me to be attentive to you!” Ignatius also suggests picking a passage from Scripture to help you meditate. Place yourself in that scene and picture yourself in that scene. The purpose of this meditation is to help you love the Lord more. Take some moments to give thanks to God for the many graces that you have received in prayer. It is important to make some resolutions in how your love for God is going to increase. Perhaps you resolve to be more attentive in prayer, more ready to forgive others…these are some examples.
So, overall, I think it is a miracle of grace that we are able to communicate with God through prayer. We are made in God’s image and likeness and He loves us. As our prayer life grows so does our union with God grow. Our prayer life is so key especially as we turn away from the sins, imperfections, and temptations of the past. But what about those times when prayer feels so hard…when we experience dryness in our prayer…perhaps this could be the topic of our next post!