Breathe in; breathe out
(the practice of prayer)
When I ask this “what do we pray for”, many do not understand what I am getting at. I guess we can start with the question what is prayer? The simplest answer is that it is “raising our heart and mind to God”. But that answer can lead to another question…..what does that mean for me in my everyday life? Prayer, if pursued and the impulses of grace are followed, which is, in fact, an invitation from the Holy Spirit, can slowly grow over the years to become a deeply ingrained habit. Prayer becomes a form of breathing for the soul. The Holy Spirit breathes in us, and we breathe out prayer.
To stop and pray, to be open to the Holy Spirit opens us up to the healing and mercy of “the fire of God’s love’, which is stronger than death. So as the life of prayer deepens we can often find ourselves in a dry desert with only faith and prayer as our guides. Or we find that we discover depths within our souls that block us from living fully in the joy and love of God. Prayer gives us the humility to grow in the knowledge of God’s grace and our total dependence on his mercy and love.
So we can find ourselves on stormy seas, without the false luxury of blaming others, or of seeking ways to self-medicate that only complicate the matter and pile on more problems. Prayer frees us from being a victim as well as drowning in anger or self-pity. The more we understand ourselves, the more we understand the struggle of others and find our hearts becoming the Heart of Christ Jesus. Prayer and our openness to God’s grace makes us aware that Paul’s statement that “It is not I but Christ who lives in me”, is not some abstract statement, or theological principle, but an actual living reality.
Fear, bitterness, anger, and cynicism are ways that we protect ourselves from the on- slot of life. Sin is the shield that we use to keep life out, which leads to only more suffering and a deepening of our wounds. It is only by letting go of fear that we can understand the healing balm of God’s love. As John says in his 1st Epistle, “Love cast out fear”.
The death to self that Jesus calls us to is a letting go of self-concern to the exclusion of others. As well as freeing others from manipulation and being made into a mere object so that we can feel secure and in control….illusions both of them. Yet when we discover the love of God, its depth and what Christ Jesus went through to save us, we come to the understanding that we are truly embraced in the everlasting arms of Christ Jesus’ love.
We can forget how short our lives are and that we are pilgrims. One good thing about aging is that illusion of “I have plenty of time” is taken away. If someone lives to be 120 years of age, on their death bed, it will seem like a passing dream…..our time is short here. Being 68 (or will be in December) has freed me totally from that illusion. Life is more precious to me as I age, yet I know that ‘soon’ I will move on. What is life for? We need to ask ourselves that question and live from what we discover.
Breathe in, breathe out, allow the Holy Spirit to pray in you, through you and let yourselves be used so that our arms, become the Arms-of-Christ, our hearts, become The-Heart-of-Christ and our minds, to become, The-Mind-of-Christ. For in our bodies we make up for what is lacking in the body of Christ. We have a great calling; we are all members of Christ Jesus and belong to the priesthood of the faithful. The more conscious we are of that the more we can allow the Holy Spirit to use us.—Br.MD