Monday, January 2, 2012

Prayer and the words we use

There is an age-old argument in some circles as to whether in the personal prayer life of Christians "written" or "spontaneous" prayers are best. Famously, Abbot John Chapman said: "Pray as you can; don't try to pray as you can't." Of course, the kind of praying we do changes as we change, and according to our circumstances. But in practice, the personal prayer life of most Christians is a blend of silence, spontaneity and set prayers. This ought not surprise us, for the Gospels clearly indicate that such was the experience of Jesus himself.

In his book, With Pity Not With Blame, Fr Robert Llewelyn (1909-2008), who was a much loved Anglican spiritual director, expressed perfectly the relation between even the most beautiful of our words and the movement of love which is the essence of our praying:

"The important thing is that the intention to pray remains,
ourselves meanwhile attending gently to the words
as the Holy Spirit enables us,
knowing that the heart is at prayer
even though the mind may wander from time to time.
We have to remember
that the real prayer lies beyond the words
in the inclination and the offering of the heart,
and the function of the words
is to set the heart free to pray.
The words may be seen as banks of a river
enabling it to remain deep and flowing.
Without the banks,
the waters would scatter
and become shallow and even stagnant.
A similar danger is open to prayer
when the framework in which it freely flows is removed.
Yet the prayer is not the framework,
but lies beyond.
And just as when the river flows into the sea,
the banks are left behind,
so when prayer flows more deeply into God,
the words,
having served their purpose,
will drop away."


Br Bernardine FHC said...

This is most helpful to those of us that are in need of sustanence at this time.

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