whispered love




Prayer to me is an ongoing relationship that sometimes surfaces in conscious words. What I mean is, I think quite often prayer is a subconscious inclination towards God, and underlying love of God. So throughout the day, our hearts are sort of tuning in to God, and doing little spotchecks with God, our consciences checking in with God, or our hearts just feeling happy or sad with God.

I frame my prayer life around morning prayer before work and evening prayer before sleep. If I'm not working, I have a time of prayer before lunch.

I try to rise at 5 and do lectio divina with a passage I reflect on for a week. After that I spend about 30 minutes in silent contemplation, and 30 minutes in intercessions, followed by the spoken Morning Prayer from the little Office book one of the sisters gave me. I adore the stillness in the morning.

In the evening, I start my silent contemplation at 6.30 followed by intercessions and the spoken Evening Prayer from the Office book.

Sometimes I start a different time of prayer by emptying my mind until I just feel God holding me. No words. Then I feel safe and confident enough to pray for others. I have a set order for my intercessions, and then space for other people on my heart on a particular day. Mostly I pray for grace. I find trust is the really important thing in prayer. Getting to a place in each prayer where I just trust God and let the prayer go to God.

In contemplation, which has become the heart of my prayer life, I firstly recollect myself, then really I am just being there with God. Waiting and being available. And gazing towards God in love. The thing I have come to learn is that distractions will always come, but I need to just return my loving gaze to God. To help with this, I use 'prayer words' which occupy the mind just enough to blot out other thoughts, until the gaze goes beyond distractions, at which point the prayer words have become hardly noticed breath or, really, a stillness.

The experience of contemplation has changed my whole outlook. Like others, I have known some little signs and gifts of grace in my life, but it is important they don't become distractions. It's not signs we need to seek, but God, and just loving God for who God is.

There are stages in contemplation. Quite often, I will wait in silence, and gaze at God, and trust in God being there, gazing back at me. And that is lovely. But sometimes, God chooses to 'come' in a way which you just can't achieve by technique or anything. God just comes when God chooses to come. And that is just wonderful. At that point, all effort on my part is gone. It is God, and words trail off in trying to describe that. But I find this shared awareness, that's the only way I can put it. And that is a gift and it is grace.

Because it's so lovely, quite often as I'm becoming very still, I am hoping it will happen, and God will come. But God also teaches humility by *not* coming - sometimes not for days or weeks. But that teaches trust. And it teaches a little humility, because it reminds me that God is God, and does not just come at my calling, but God is sovereign and comes when God chooses. Again, one has to learn that what one should desire is *not* that experience, but just God, whether God comes like that, or is just present and unseen.

The process of contemplation is a kind of 'unknowing'. It's a making space for God. Or, to be more precise, it's us coming inside in stillness to where God already is. But to stop us endlessly controlling, or thinking, or defining, it seems like God puts this cloud or darkness between us, so we gaze towards God into darkness and unknowing. Because actually, God wants to reveal God's awareness and share it with us. Our own awareness and understanding need to step aside.

Even these are just words, that fail to describe.

Over a period of time of doing this, month in and month out, a sort of trust builds up, whether God 'shows' or not. God is there. And there is love. And that trust and faith can build. Part of the trust is in *not* seeing. It creates a tenderness. And it sort of becomes habitual. I can be on a busy shift, and suddenly, I'm aware of the gaze again, and I'm finding contemplation happening, even in the bustle. But I can't stress enough, I am almost a complete beginner.

One thing it's done is make me aware of the soul. I used to conflate the soul with the brain. But the soul is beyond our physical being, and so vast, with this capacity for God and for awareness... for awareness and consciousness God may choose to share. And it's like a mansion, with many rooms, and courtyards, and enclosed gardens, and in the innermost room (or cloistered garden) is God... at the very heart of who we are... longing to be welcomed into more and more areas of our lives, more and more rooms of the mansion.

Also the soul is like a crystal sphere, suspended quite freely, with light shining from its centre, where God is present in us. But of course, these are metaphors.

What I've learnt through contemplation is that God seeks to give of Himself / Herself, in love to us. God seeks to share, even share awareness and being, so that in that sharing we grow in union... we discover we are not independent 'islands' of personality (though we have unique personality) but actually God is part of who we are - not just a nearby influence, but sharing right in our being, if we open up to God's gift, God's sharing, in the trust and convergence of wills, in the meeting of love.

That convergence of wills has repercussions... because we find ourselves drawn into God's thoughts and God's compassion... and God's desire for the building up of the Church to reach to the needs of the world. So, prayer becomes... not esoteric, not a kind of hedonistic pleasure, not a search for experiences... but a share in God's mission, God's church, God's witness, God's compassion.

God seeks our devotion (in the biblical sense of almost sacrificial immolation)... because God seeks to share... to give of God's own self to us, in love. God desires us to die to self, to make space for the life and awareness that God made us to share with God. The being of God's own being within us... God "in whom we live, and move, and have our being." God at the heart of who we are.

Sister Mary, who I visited at the convent near Euston Station, has also taught me the lesson of thankfulness in prayer. I try to pray with a thankful heart. As well as prayer alone, I also really value prayer at church, and especially the liturgy around the eucharist. The eucharist is really important to me. I don't pretend to be a great prayer warrior. I know people who are. But God gives me grace to follow my little prayer life and it is essential to my daily life.




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