Saturday, 26 November 2016

Pray as you can: failure to prepare is preparing to fail!

Image result for prayingJesus was a religious teacher, so it was natural that his disciples would ask him for help in a central religious practice, in praying. It’s wise to assume the account in Matthew 6:1 was one of many. Interestingly, Jesus did not launch into a detailed account nor did he start with sample prayers. His approach starts with preparation.
      We need to prepare ourselves before we pray. Jesus first tells us to avoid noise and clutter, which (to him) meant people. That’s why he suggested his disciples go into a room ‘in private’. It also means that learning to pray is something of a private matter, between us and God. Being so private, the early Church called it ‘Prayer of the heart'.
      The prayer of the heart that Jesus describes is probably silent. If we must speak aloud, any spoken words are for God’s ears and not the ears of those around us. This prayer is therefore intimate
      Because prayer for Jesus is a private and intimate thing, the effort we spend on preparing ourselves is best spent on avoiding anyone or anything that gets between us and God. The preparation is therefore best seen as stilling our interior heart. It is better to start our time of prayer after relaxation rather than after exertion or something we find stressful.
      Sometimes, even after preparation, we cannot concentrate. Concerns and thoughts rise up from the subconscious and demand our attention. They get between us and God. If this happens — and it
      always does when we’re a beginner — it can be helpful to keep a pen and paper to hand, so we write these obtruding thoughts onto a ‘to do’ list as they present themselves. This way, (hopefully) we remove them until later.
      It’s best to keep a relatively short period of silence when we come before God. Perhaps we should set aside ten minutes twice a day. The length of time and/or frequency can increase later, once practise has moved us along the way to perfection.

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