In contemplative prayer it would seem that purity of intention is not such a problem as it is in the prayer of words. In contemplative prayer we seek to lose self and simply rest in You – without words. But in vocal prayer our words often belie our lack of self. If we examine it closely we will find elements of self-interest that often muddy the purity of our intentions.
For example, I can’t help but perceive twinges of self-interest in a lot of my prayers for the sick – especially those closest to me. In praying for their health am I not also concerned with being burdened with their care? In praying for safe travel, or good weather, of a change of heart in another is there not the residue of a desire that these results will make my own life smoother and less complicated? This is why I am led to believe that the prayer of purest intention is the prayer without intention; the prayer of being: the prayer of sitting in Your lap with Your arm around me, the prayer of praise and gratitude, the prayer of love. In these the contaminating dross of self is swept away.
It isn’t that we shouldn’t pray for the health or conversion of another, or for safe travel, good weather, or success on a test. All these underline our dependence upon You and Your providential love. It’s just that if our prayer gets stuck on this level it does not grow, mature, nor seek perfection. The prospects of turning prayer into a “gimme list” says a lot about our relationship even when it’s not just a gimme list for ourselves but for others.