I suspect that we have all been involved in one way conversations. The person to whom or with whom we are speaking monopolizes the conversation, never letting us to get a word in edgewise. They don’t even seem to stop to take a breath. When we do get a chance to say something, they immediately take our statement as an opportunity to tell us in great detail how they have experienced the same thing. Suffice it to say that such conversations are not very satisfying. We may even stop listening and turn our minds to something else while they prate on. We might avoid the person in the future for fear that we would be forced to listen to non-stop talking again.
St. Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit will come to the aid of our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought. Whenever I read this passage, I think of those non-stop conversations of which I spoke. Prayer is supposed to be a conversation between the Creator and the creature, between God and us. However, if we simply go on and on about ourselves and our needs and our petitions, never stopping to allow God to respond, the conversation will eventually fall flat and be less than satisfying for both God and us. Like any good conversation, speaking is only half of the equation. Listening is also absolutely necessary.
Many have attempted to teach us how to pray. Even Jesus did so! As children, our mothers may have taught us how to pray. I remember sitting in the kitchen while my mother was ironing. When I picked up her rosary from the kitchen table, she immediately started to teach me how to pray it. Sr. Kathleen Mauer taught me the prayers I would need as an altar boy. My novice master introduced me to the meditation method of St. Peter of Alcantara. Through my own spiritual reading, I have read of many different methods of prayer. One of my favorites comes from one of the biographies of St. Francis. It tells how Francis would go to the woods to pray. The forest would ring out with the cries and groaning of Francis who, after letting out all his sorrows and concerns, would quiet and become a prayer. After shedding all of his own personal concerns, his fears and anxiety, and his self-image itself, he would stand as if naked before God and simply allow himself to see himself and the world about him through the eyes of God. As he wrote in Admonition 19: “For what a person is before God, that he is and no more.”
We pray that the Holy Spirit will teach us to pray, especially how to listen in prayer and to see who we are in the eyes of God. Armed with this vision, we will know exactly what we must do to transform ourselves into the image of Jesus.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator