The Spiritual Life

The Spiritual Life March 27, 2017

Fra Angelico, The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs (about 1423-24) Tempera on wood, 31,9 x 63,5 cm cm National Gallery, London. By Sampo Torgo at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
Fra Angelico, The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs (about 1423-24) Tempera on wood, 31,9 x 63,5 cm cm National Gallery, London. By Sampo Torgo at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
Many saints suggest giving a prayer of thanks to God when waking. This might be difficult for many, because their mind is unfocused as they wake up, so instead of when waking, I would suggest someone prays during their morning routine of brushing their teeth, changing their clothes, and showering, if they shower in the morning. I like to think such prayers are a spiritual reflection of what I am doing as I wake up, allowing myself to become open to and aware of the spiritual reality around me just as my body does with its physical surroundings, and that the prayers invoke the grace needed for spiritual cleansing so that, like having a shower in the morning, so I also have a spiritual shower, so that I can go into the world, cleaned and refreshed, in body and spirit.

The prayers I like to pray in my morning routine are simple. I usually begin with the Our Father and a Hail Mary. Then I add a Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy Upon Me a Sinner”), before finishing with the Heavenly King (“Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, who art everywhere present and fill all things, treasury of blessings and giver of life, come and dwell within us, cleanse us of our sins, and save our souls, O Gracious Lord”).  While I might vary the orders of the prayer from day to day, in this fashion I feel I open myself up to all three persons of the Trinity as well as to Mary, and hope, by doing so, I am ready to receive whatever gifts they would have for me for the upcoming day.

Having started the day by handing myself over to the Trinity and the Motherly love of Mary, I recite, from time to time, the Jesus Prayer. If I am anxious or worried, I meditate on it, breathing in and out slowly, hoping to connect the words to my breath, and ease my stress. I usually say it a couple random times in the day, saying the prayer once unless there is an internal pull to recite it several times once I begin saying it, which I then do until I feel I have said it enough and it feels right to stop. For the Jesus Prayer is capable of being used for meditation, like the Hail Mary. Often, indeed, it is recited several times in a row with a prayer rope, but for some, such routine recital is not possible during the day, but saying the prayer here and there can still be done, and if said in faith, it keeps one open to God and whatever grace he might send our way.

As I say the Jesus Prayer, I often try to focus my mind on the words, or beyond that, to say the words alone as a way of clearing my mind of all other words, and then even the words of the prayer itself. and clear my mind of all words. Slowly, but surely, through its help, I will silence my mind and let myself be in that silence – sometimes for an instant, sometimes longer for it does not have to be long, even five seconds of such silence will be useful and will seem long to those unacquainted with such silence. The point is to say the prayer and then try to silence all thoughts and worries and just experience the presence of being and, in the process, experience the world without thought. The beauty and glory within the world, and therefore the glory and being of God, will reveal itself slowly as we just let ourselves be without any attachment to ourselves. Again, this does not have to be long, and indeed, will not be long when we begin this regimen. We should not measure success by the quantity of the time we silence ourselves, but the quality of our experience.

With this as my typical practice, waking up with the prayers to the Trinity and Mary, and praying occasionally throughout the day the Jesus Prayer, I find myself slowly adding more and more recitations of the Jesus Prayer throughout the day, and with it, more and more moments of silence. It comes to a crescendo in the evening, when it all comes together, and I find myself saying the Jesus Prayer and entering into that silence of being greater than at any other point of time during the day. This is likely because they day is almost over, the stress of the day is gone, and so I feel like I can truly let go and relax and enter the rest of God. This is why the reaction and experience of when that moment of silence, that quality time with God, will emerge will probably be different for others, as their own day differs from mine. But one thing I ca say – the more I recite the prayer as I feel prompted by the spirit and not as some obligation to routine, the more I find myself reciting it, and opening myself to what comes after I finish and sit in silence. Sometimes, the prayer becomes shortened, so all I say is “Lord, have mercy,” but the spirit remains the same. I pray a very short cycle of prayers, have a short period of silence, do something else, and then find myself once again going over to prayer and silence. On my best days, this happens several times, with each being a different yet similar experience.

Making time for prayer and the silence which comes from it have been key for me.  The prayer keeps me open to Jesus and his grace.  The silence empties myself of all that I think and do, so that it becomes a mental practice of dying to the self. I let the beauty of creation and the glory of the Creator behind creation come to me and reveal itself to me without my thoughts getting in the way and blocking it from my view.

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