I revel in rapturous reflections upon the ways You choose to speak to me. I love to sit back and contemplate Your many voices and, with a delicious anxiety, to imagine ways yet to come.
In the car this morning I was listening to a minister talking about St. Paul’s warning to the Corinthians concerning charity and how our gifts, talents, preaching, teaching, and praying are all for nothing if we lack it. Somehow, concurrently, my mind took hold of another admonition to let our prayers be simple, not a lot of words, for the Father in heaven already knows our needs. This picture segued into the idea that “self” was behind everything that prevented us from loving and trusting as we should. Then, a bit later, while reciting the chaplet of divine mercy, You threw all this together into a mix out of which emerged insight. It’s absolutely marvelous, and I love to contemplate it! Thank-You for finding ways, no matter how obtuse, to touch me.
The “zinger” in this case was just this: thoughtful prayer abnegates self. I wrestle frequently with the length and quantity of prayers I say daily. I often feel compelled to say three Our Fathers, Hail Marys, and Glory Be’s plus a lot of sweetened hortatory rhetoric for an intention, then move on to another; all this despite the fact (and this is what I struggle with) that all I need to do is place it in Your hands. I have been leaning more and more toward doing this until this morning.
This morning I realized that something terribly important goes on during those lengthy and wordy prayers that would be lost by shortening them. The benefit to the object or motivation of the prayer would not change, but the benefit to me would be drastically altered. This is because when I pray with unneeded verbosity I lose my “self,” It was right before me all the time – I lose my “self.”
The blood, sweat, and tears of trying to erase my “self” in the relationships of my daily life dissolve completely when I pray attentively. That, all along, has been the beauty of prayer. It may be that times of thoughtful prayer are the only times of complete loss of “self.” At these times gifts, talents, preachings and teachings fall away with our “selves” - and we love.
How many times have I heard the cliché about someone “losing himself in thought” but have never stopped to ponder that the emphasis in that cliché should be on the word “self.” When we focus in our prayers on the needs, concerns and love we have for another, our personas dissolve. It would seem ideal if we were able to sustain this attitude of prayer from morning to night daily. If we prayed thoughtfully from waking to sleeping our “self” would be contained and our love would grow immensely. The fact that this is so difficult (but not impossible) to sustain outside a monastery is a good argument for the monastic life where each day is built around prayer.
So, while I may never achieve the loss of “self” so available to a monk, I am overjoyed at Your revelation of it to me.