Christian Counseling People to a Better Prayer Life
In past blogs, we discussed the external nature of prayer, its purposes and benefits. In this blog, I would like to discuss key points that should be highlighted in one’s prayer life. Many of these ideas stem from St. Teresa of Avila and other saints whose experience in meditative prayer far outweigh our own. However before delving deeper into prayer itself, I think we can find the core of prayer found in the words of Christ in the “Our Father“.
Our Lord taught us a few key concepts in the “Our Father”. First, charity abounds in the “Our Father”. It adores the Father and seeks forgiveness for one’s enemies. Second, petition of needs is addressed through the phrase “give us this day our daily bread”. Yet in this petition, Jesus reminds us that it is the will of the Father that must supersede our own. Third, contrition of one’s sins is found in the prayer along with spiritual aid against evil. Of course thanksgiving is implied throughout the prayer and is an essential element of the prayer. From these standards, we find the key elements of adoration, petition, contrition and thanksgiving.
Yet it is so amazing to hear when people ask how should I pray. While ritualistic prayers are wonderful, some people merely mumble the words without any true thought. Others have no idea on what to say. The simple reality is love. If you love God, there is no true structure to follow but to simply love him and please him. One will be filled with the spirit and find the necessary words to express one’s feelings.
As one delves deeper and deeper into a relationship with Christ, one can experience many exchanges with Christ. Some can involve consolations or feelings of rapture and love. Others could possibly involve visions of physical, spiritual or intellectual natures. Some times in prayer one will experience an intense devotion, while in other sessions of prayer, one will experience an aridity due to no fault of their own. In other circumstances, one may feel great certitude of what the Lord desires, while in other cases, one may doubt if it was the Lord or one’s own inner voice.
These are all the inner complexities of prayer life. As one contemplates the life of Christ or invokes dialogue with the Lord, one can find his true voice through pure love, humility and union of will. Discernment of our Lord’s will can come through a Christian Counselor or Spiritual Advisor who can help one through prayer life. However, one can rest assured that it is from God if over time it produces good fruits, for the tricks of the evil one can never bring forth abundance of good. Nor does the promises of the evil one produce fervent love of God or increase sanctity. Intsead, it produces a lack of peace and confusion. St. Ignatius and St. Teresa both emphasize this fruit of Satan. They remind us that as one progresses in prayer life, the devil will become troubled and become louder and attempt to ruin the peace. These hardships should be endured and after they are recognized can be removed through obedience to a confessor or Christian counselor who will guide you away from them.
St. Teresa also emphasizes that our prayer life should seek no spiritual rewards or consolations or visions. Instead she emphasizes that we should prayer for the simple purpose of love. Our Divine Majesty is owed this love without return of reward. This is the best prayer. One should embrace ardity in prayer to better show our Lord how deep our love is for him Of course our Lord will not be out done in generousity.
I hope some of these ideas from Christ and his saints can aid Christian Counselors in their guidance of their spiritual children. I will now add some insight from the words of experts on mystical prayer, namely the saints.
Souls that have no habit of prayer are like a lame and paralytic body, which, though it has hands and feet, cannot use them. Therefore, to abandon prayer seems to me the same thing as to lose the straight road; for as prayer is the gate through which all the graces of God come to us, when this is closed, I do not know how we can have any.—-St. Teresa
The soul that perseveres in the exercise of prayer, however many sins, temptations and falls of a thousand kinds the devil may oppose to it, may hold it for certain, after all, that the Lord will sooner or later rescue it from danger and guide it into the harbor of salvation.—-St. Teresa
Mental prayer consists in weighing and understanding what we are saying, Who it is to Whom we are speaking and who we are to have the courage to speak to so great a Lord. To have these and similar thoughts is properly to make mental prayer. Their opinion, however, is not to be followed who believe that its whole essence consists in thinking, so that if they can keep their thoughts fixed by a great effort, then they consider themselves very spiritual and men of prayer; but if they are able to do this no longer, and their attention wanders a little, even to good things, they imagine they are doing nothing. No, the substance of mental prayer, in my opinion, consists in nothing but conversing with God as with a friend. And so, to speak of this thing or of that to Him, Who, we know, loves us, is mental prayer.—-St. Teresa
If, while one is praying, he regards and considers the fact that he is conversing with God with more attention than the words that he utters, he is making vocal and mental prayer at once, which may be of much advantage to him. But if he does not consider with Whom he is speaking, nor what he is saying, it may be thought certain that, however much he may move his lips, he prays very little.—-St. Teresa
When the soul finds herself oppressed by aridity and sterility, she ought to make the prayer of reverence, confidence, and conformity to the Divine Will, standing in the presence of God like a poor man before his prince, making use of such words as express a loving submission to the Divine pleasure.—-St. Jane Frances de Chantal
Whoever wishes to profit by prayers should not take account of spiritual consolations. I know by experience that the soul which has started on this road with a full determination not to consider whether the Lord gives or denies him consolations and tenderness, and really acts on this determination, has already made a great part of the journey.—-St. Teresa
There is another thing which greatly afflicts those who give themselves to prayer. It is the distractions which often come and carry their thoughts, and their hearts too, hither and thither. They come at times from the mortification of the senses; at times with the soul being distracted in itself, and often because the Lord wills it, to try His servants. Now in such cases we must recall our thoughts from time to time, by reviving our faith in the presence of God, and by remaining before Him with reverence and respect. If we do not succeed in fixing them on the prescribed point, we must bear those annoyances and vexations with humility and patience. It will not be lost time, as at first sight it may appear, but such a prayer will sometimes be more fruitful than many others made with recollection and pleasure. For all the actions performed to banish or to endure these distractions, as they are done in order not to displease God, and to become better qualified for His service, are so many acts of the love of God.—-St. Teresa
The whole aim of whoever intends to give himself to prayer ought to be to labor, to resolve, to dispose himself, with all possible diligence, to conform his will to that of God. For in this consists all the highest perfection that can be acquired in the spiritual way.—-St. Teresa
Try to disengage yourself from so many cares, and take a little time to think of God and to rest in Him. Enter into the secret chamber of your heart, and banish from it everything save your Creator alone and what can help you to find Him; then having closed the door, say to Him, with all your soul: “Lord, I seek Thy Divine countenance—-teach me to find it!”—-St. Augustine
In mental prayer, we are not obliged to employ our intellect all the time. We can occupy ourselves in the presence of God by conversing and consoling ourselves with Him, without the weariness of formal considerations and choice words. We can represent to Him simply our necessities, and the cause He has for showing us mercy. For example, when we think of some part of the Passion, it is a good thing to make a consideration first, by meditating on the pains which Our Lord suffered in it. But let not the soul weary itself by seeking too long for this; let it rather sometimes remain still with Christ, and keeping the intellect inactive if possible, let it occupy itself, in thought, in looking upon Him; let it accompany Him, ask favors of Him, humble itself and console itself with Him, and remember that He did not deserve to be there. This method of prayer has many advantages.—-St. Teresa
We should set a high value on meditation upon the Passion of our Redeemer. For a simple remembrance or meditation upon this is worth more than if for a whole year one should take the discipline to blood, or fast on bread and water every week, or recite the whole psalter every day.—-Bl. Albertus Magnus
There is a certain method of practicing the presence of God, by which, if the soul chooses, she may remain always in prayer, and constantly inflaming with the love of God. This consists in realizing, in the midst of our occupations, that we are doing the will of God in each, and in rejoicing and being glad that it is so.—-St. Alphonsus Rodriguez
The highest and most perfect prayer is contemplation. But this is altogether the work of God, as it is supernatural and above our powers. The soul can only prepare itself for this prayer, and can do nothing in it. The best preparation is to live humbly, and to give ourselves in earnest to the acquisition of virtues, and especially, of fraternal charity and the love of God; to have a find resolution to do the will of God in all things; to walk in the way of the Cross, and to destroy self-love, which is a wish, on our part, to please ourselves rather than God.—-St. Teresa
I hope these quotes give some insight in one’s spiritual life.
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Mark Moran, MA