In the past several months, I have been hearing and reading a lot about the kind of prayer that involves *listening* to God. I don't mean "hearing" him in the metaphorical sense, but actually stopping everything, to hear His voice in the silence of the heart. This kind of prayer is mysterious and baffling to me. I didn't understand how it was done, but I know it is essential to my growth in my relationship with God.
Frank, from Why I Am Catholic, mentioned a powerful book on prayer written by Sister Wendy in one of his blog posts. I wasn't planning on buying the book, but while I was buying some other books off Amazon, I stumbled across this one and decided to get it it. I am so glad I did.
I didn't know that this book was going to teach me everything I needed to know right now about contemplative prayer, but it is. I am learning a new way to pray that is above and beyond the lower level of prayer that I am at right now. It is very excited to me! Sister Wendy says it hard at first and it takes time to develop, but I am willing to try. I really want to know God as a close friend and this is the only way to deepen our relationship.
This kind of prayer is the silent kind. No words, prayer books, no beads, not even any thoughts are needed to enter into a true meeting with God. "You are just there to stand in His presence and let Him take possession of you" (Sister Wendy on Prayer, p. 44). The key is to abandon myself. I have to be able to let go of all that binds me to this earth and be an empty vessel to have God fill me. Of course, it may sound pretty easy to Sister Wendy to do since she is a hermit who spends 7 hours straight each day in contemplative prayer, but she says our circumstances in life do not matter when it comes to putting ourselves in the presence of God. We bring with us all our circumstances: motherhood, sickness, happiness, depression, sinfulness, etc. to prayer and lay it down. We don't have to be a hermit or "feel holy" to pray. "We retain possession of our self hood and offer it to God. It is the offering that matters, the will, the choosing....You bring yourself in whatever state you are and offer that to God. There may be very little satisfaction in this. All you may be conscious of are your own feelings, but God does not ask us to pass a test of how beautiful our feelings are. He simply wants us to pray," (Sister Wendy p. 43).
I thought, if this is the case, I can handle it. I just have to be prepared to not feel any huge ecstasies with God. He comes to me on his own terms, Sister Wendy says. I tried this contemplative prayer this morning. It wasn't easy and I am terrible at it. My mind kept racing and I had to keep reminding myself to come back into God's presence and empty myself. However bad I am at this, I have faith that God will meet me where I am. He chose to reveal this intimate type of prayer to me and it must mean that He wants more of me. If this is the case, who am I to refuse? I will keep on trying and wait to hear His voice.