Progress in prayer

“Do not entertain the notion that you ought to advance in your prayer.  If you do, you will only find you have put on the brake instead of the accelerator.  All real progress in spiritual things comes gently, imperceptibly, and is the work of God.  Our crude efforts spoil it.  Know yourself for the childish, limited and dependent soul you are.  Remember that the only growth that matters without our knowledge and that trying to stretch ourselves is both dangers and silly.  Think of the Infinite Goodness, never of your own state.  Realize that the very capacity to pray at all is the free gift of the Divine Love and be content with St. Francis de Sales’ favorite prayer in which all personal religion is summed up. ‘Yes, Father!  Yes and always Yes!’ . . .

“Let us rejoice in the great adoring acts and splendid heroisms of God’s great lovers and humbly do the little bit we can.  We too have our place.”  (Evelyn Underhill)


I am in beautiful Roma for three weeks.  I thought I would have regular internet access, but that proved to be wrong.  So I will be scarce in posting until after August 3.  You are all in my prayers at every church we visit.

Never oneself

Adrienne von Speyr has something insightful to offer regarding prayer and contemplation:

Whoever wishes to accommodate oneself to a new, living relationship to the Lord should consider that the Lord always spent a great deal of time reflecting upon the Father, but none in reflecting upon himself.  The object of contemplation is always God, never oneself.

I would propose that we would gain what we really seek in prayer if we followed this advice.

A “Method” of Prayer for (Busy) Contemplatives

Contemplative in the Mud

There is one “method” of contemplative prayer that I like very much.

To be strictly true, any method implies a discursive or measured use of our thoughts, our reason, and so on. So it’s better to say that it relates to meditation, not contemplation.

Brother CharlesBut as far as methods go, there’s one that throws itself straight at contemplation. I picked it up from Blessed Charles de Foucauld, who seems to have “invented” it. Brother Charles was a great reader of Saint Teresa and Saint John of the Cross. As much as he loved to meditate on the Gospels, he placed the right value on talking with Jesus, on contemplation, on love. He put that first. For Charles, all methods, all meditations, came second.

Blessed Charles’ method is like this.

  1. “Jesus, what do you want to say to me? … [listen] …”
  2. “This is what I want to say to you, Jesus: … [form thoughts]…

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God will not be distracted

” . . . difficulties are magnified out of all proportion simply by fear and anxiety.  From the moment we wake until we fall asleep we must commend other people wholly and unreservedly to God and leave them in his hands, and transform our anxiety for them into prayers on their behalf: With sorry and with grief . . . God will not be distracted.”  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Letters from Prison)


Advice about prayer

Simple, wonderful advice on prayer from Jean-Pierre de Caussade:

I have only two things to say on the subject of prayer:

Make it with absolute compliance with the will of God, no matter whether it be successful, or you are troubled with dryness, distractions, or other obstacles.

If it is easy and full of consolations, return thanks to God without dwelling on the pleasure it has caused you.

If it has not succeeded, submit to God, humbling yourself, and go away contented and in peace even if it should have failed through your own fault; redoubling your confidence and resignation to his holy will.

Persevere in this way and sooner or later God will give you grace to pray properly.

But whatever trials you may have to endure, never allow yourselves to be discouraged.