Tuesday, July 31, 2007

How Do We Pray?-Carmel Retreat

In order to gain a richer experience of deep and inward prayer, we need to recognise 'worldliness' and how much it has entered our hearts and souls. This means turning a ruthless eye within our soul and understand the intent that drives us either towards God or in the opposite direction from The Divine.

We have to unlearn what the world has taught us. Words such as self esteem, self empowerment and a sense of self fulfillment lead us into becoming selfish beings intent on getting our own way at any cost. We must learn to replace these words with selflessness, self abnegation and surrender.

There must be an understanding of new age 'spirituality' and mature spirituality. The New Age ideology of sprituality is based on feeding one's Ego and is entirely centred on the Self which makes it self centred. Whereas we learn with the Spirit of Carmel one learns to forget oneself and instead raises the inner soul towards God and learn to love God for who He is, totally loveable and to be aware of God's true Majesty.

In prayer we open ourselves to God, who then gradually with our cooperation transforms us into a reflection of Himself. It is through this transforming love we are then willing to serve, are capable of compassion and solidarity to those who are suffering.

God is a dangerous Lover of our souls, as once we have allowed God entry, we change and not God. It calls us to go beyond our limited self and embrace the 'unknowing'. It involves times of crisis, of helplessness, of powerlessness as we allow God to Purify our souls at the deepest level. Just as boiling oil if spilt on the skin will burn, so our souls under the Fire of God's Love will burn within each of us. During this process we will become less self-centred and more open to the Gift of God, who conforms us in His Image. We will then learn to see life with God's eye and to recognise the woundedness of those around us and our own incompleteness as we stand spiritually naked before our Majestic God.

This is the most dangerous time as all the feelings that gave us such comfort will now leave us and we then become vulnerable and powerless. It is here that rather than continuing in the Holocaust of God's consuming Love we draw back and embrace the 'feelings' that give us a transitory feeling of 'safeness'. When we draw back we then attempt to have one foot in the 'spiritual' life and the other in the 'worldly' life, as if both could co-exist within our souls.

We are called to decide, whether we wish to walk with our Lord or walk away from Him. God with infinite tenderness allows us this choice as we like children will run towards Him and just as quickly we run from Him. We must recognise that God does not remove Himself from us, we have moved away from His Gracious Love and like a loving father our God awaits our return with open arms.

It is God who initiates and ignites a fire in our hearts for Him. It is the Divine Invitation to Union with our Beloved, even though we are fickle lovers our God is not. This does not mean we sit back and allow God to do all the work within our own souls as if we were puppets with no free will. It calls for us to be committed and to live the Word of God in our daily lives. Not as an abstract ideology, but as the Living Word, the Spirit of God. The Word must take root in our hearts and be on our lips, as we allow the Indwelling Spirit to lead us on this journey. Through the fiery furnace of God's Encompassing Love we like Mary learn to ponder all things in our heart.

Prayer does not mean we must think much, but to love much. That is the essence of prayer. It is the call to enter into the desert...