Prayer and union with God are the essence of Carmelite life. Mary is our model. She pondered the Word of Scripture and lived in the presence of her Son Jesus. This simply is what we are called to do as Carmelites.
St. Teresa of Jesus, John of the Cross and Therese of Lisieux, – Doctors of the Church are teachers of prayer. They all looked to Mary as their model and inspiration. All Carmelites have a very special devotion to Mary.
What is Prayer
Prayer, like love is not something we can be taught. It is a relationship with a Person – God. Prayer is more a discovery than a task, more an adventure than a duty. It makes a pilgrim out of a wanderer.Real prayer always starts with God. For us prayer is a response. Prayer is as personal and unique as each one of us. There are as many ways of praying as there are people who pray.
Prayer is more than words. It is sharing your life with God. It is friendship. It is discovering God’s love for you and then your response. It is the one thing we can give to a God who has everything.
St. Therese says
“prayer means launching out of the heart towards God; it means lifting up one’s eyes, quite simply, to heaven, a cry of grateful love from the crest of joy or the depths of despair”.
Prayer and Presence
Living in God’s presence is a question of awareness and attention. One realises that God is so close – “closer to me than my inmost self” is how St. Augustine expressed it and to find Him I have only to look within my own heart. God is always present to me and it is a case of my being present – of two presences meeting. In prayer we have only to be aware that God is present.
To live a full Christian life is to live constantly in the presence of God and that is just another way of making prayer out of life itself. It is not a duty but our Christian birthright.
Prayer as Listening
Real prayer starts with God’s love for us. All that is needed is a “listening heart” to hear that message of love. In the scriptures listening always takes precedence over seeing. The ear is more important than the eye. Faith comes from what is heard. Jesus opens his teaching with the simple word “listen” and ends with “Let anyone who has ears to hear listen” (Mark 4;9).
Prayer and Silence
Silence is more than the absence of words or noise. It is the response of our whole being reaching out to grasp the word of life. It is an alert and attentive receptiveness to “hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28)
To Pray is to Love
A living faith and a loving heart are the very breath of all true contemplative prayer. St. Teresa reminds us, “the important thing is not to think much but to love much”. Prayer is being with God in faith and looking towards him in love; an entering into the mystery of a real and personal God in whose love we share.
I am indebted to Fr. Eugene Mc Caffrey O.C.D and his book Patterns of Prayer published by Paulist Press for many of the ideas and words expressed above.