“Often during the day, even while outwardly engaged in conversations and business with others, remember to retire to the solitude of your heart to be with God. This mental solitude cannot be in any way impeded, even if many people stand about you, since they surround, not your heart, but only your body. Your heart remains alone in the presence of God.” — St. Francis de Sales
Prayer, almsgiving and fasting: the three main ingredients for a successful Lent. As the days of this season wane, I’m already beginning to look back, to take an account of my failures and successes, and I would say that the greatest success for me has come in the area of prayer.
For the last several years of Lent, I’ve committed myself to carving out an hour of time each week to visit our church’s Eucharistic Adoration chapel. Typically, the hour falls on the evening I am out of the house working on writing projects. Around midnight, I close my laptop and head south to my church, where I join the other late-night Adorers at the feet of Jesus.
I can honestly say that this Lenten commitment has become my favorite hour of the week. Sitting in silence in a quiet chapel at midnight, talking to Jesus, has been one of the most profound experiences of my faith journey. I’ve discovered in this routine how thirsty I am for silence, how desperately my heart longs to be stilled. And it is in that silence I am able to begin to hear more clearly the dialogue that has been in progress throughout the week: my ongoing conversation with God.
It’s common knowledge that in order to have a truly vital relationship, time and attention must be given to that relationship or it will wither. Take the marital relationship. Like most couples, my husband and I go through most days of our busy weeks focusing on the logistics of our job as parents and other obligations. We communicate in snippets: a quick phone call here, a short conversation there, moving along as best we can. But at some point, usually during the weekend, we find the need to come together and really talk, to sort through whatever big things might need addressing, to air the heavier thoughts. Sometimes it takes a date night to really get at the bigger issues life brings. And what a difference this kind of quality time makes! In fact, weeks when we don’t take time to nourish our relationship, a dramatic moment typically erupts that forces us to “stop the world.” We become weighted down by unresolved issues, big or small, and eventually they demand our attention until we have no choice but to either face them, or the unfortunate consequences of our lapse.
My time in Adoration every week is like a date night with God. It is my time to air the big stuff, to take all the prayer requests I’ve gotten over the week and lay them at God’s feet, and then to just listen. Some might think it would be difficult to sit still for an hour in silence, that the time would pass slowly and be boring. Au, contraire! The time flies quickly past, and when it’s time to leave, I always feel filled up and much more prepared than when I entered to tackle whatever life has in store. I walk out into the night with a smile on my face and a fullness in my heart.
God doesn’t expect that we busy parents set aside an hour a day to focus intently on Him. In fact, the hour I spend in the Adoration chapel is something of a luxury, and would have been even more so several years back when I was still a nursing mother. There are times in our lives when this kind of focused attention is possible, and other times when we have to make do with snippets. However we manage to talk to God, He’s always listening, and always ready to whisper words of love to us if we can still ourselves long enough to listen for His response. In order to have the richest prayer life possible, we need to consider where we’re at in our lives and not expect the impossible, but also to be open to new ways of conversing with God.
I’ve been collecting prayer quotes since before Lent and hope that something here will hearten and inspire you in these last days of Lent. It’s never too late to start a meaningful dialogue with God, even if you feel you’ve fallen short until now. He’s as patient as they come, and ready to hear from you, as well as to whisper back.
“Pray with your whole being even though you think it has no savor for you. For such prayer is very profitable even though you feel nothing, though you see nothing, even though it seems impossible to you. It is in dryness and barrenness, in sickness and feebleness that your prayer is most pleasing to me, even though you think that it has little savor for you.” — Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love
“Pray simply. Do not expect to find in your heart any remarkable gift of prayer. Consider yourself unworthy of it. Then you will find peace. Use the empty cold dryness of your prayer as food for your humility. Repeat constantly: I am not worthy; Lord, I am not worthy! But say it calmly, without agitation.” — St. Macarius of Optina
Many are satisfied with carrying the Lord on their tongue, recounting His marvels and praising Him with great ardor; others carry Him in their hearts with tender and loving affection, which becomes part and parcel of their lives, thinking of Him and speaking to Him. But these two ways of carrying the Lord do not amount to much if the third element of carrying Him in their arms by good works is missing. — St. Francis de Sales
“If you pray well you will live well, if you live well you will die well, if you die well, all will be well.” (Unknown source)
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