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November 14, 1997     The Message
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November 14, 1997

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14,1997 Z i The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 9 overlooked aspect of my praying By JUDY ESWAY Catholic News Service My prayer life is simpler these days, different when I first began to pray when I Was had a spiritual awakening, and at eet feelings. I couldn't t 9 be with Jesus each day! know much about prayer then. I t be better. little stack of devotional booklets !two or three rosaries and various old ,ven found our family Bible with COVer and resurrected it from a prayer time I'd cram it all in, my personal litany of "worry )ur children. My worry prayers long, repetitious and somewhat i , everyone and everything. I time was good -- it was cer- it was exhausting. prayer time became a chore. g SOme of the people and was "supposed" to be pray- I'd sit down in my prayer chair ly speak a word. I hon- prayer life Was falling apart. sign that God is inviting us perhaps into contemplative re confused. We may even What if I don't say my rosary, or ! prayerbook? And, oh pray for rfiy children!) us into the quiet, we don't for Our earlier ways of praying LI!Y). And it's OK to go back But we're being asked to let go, to surrender and follow God into silence. In his book "Spiritual Surrender, Yielding Yourself to a Loving God," James Krisher writes: "Without surrender, religious practice becomes a kind of magic wherein we try to con- trol reality and manipulate God to do our will." When I think back to my long, detailed prayers of petition, I think Jesus must have been .... amused. Not all my prayers were answered, lucky for me. You've heard the saying: "Be care- ful what you pray for. You just might get it." Years ago my husband applied for a mar- velous new job. It was everything he wanted, and the interview went extremely well. We were thrilled when he was offered the position. But inexplicably, at the last minute, things fell apart. A few months later the same thing happened with another company. We were stunned. We didn't learn that God had our best inter- ests at heart until a few years later when we discovered that both companies had folded while his work and the firm he stayed with flourished. My prayer is softer now, not so wrenching and controlling as in the early days. I begin with a little conversation: "Here I am Lord. It's me, your friend, Judy." Then we sit quietly together .... I try my best to relax and trust that my friend will take care of things. When I slip back into "worry prayers" for my children, as mothers tend to do, I remind myself that I don't always know what is best for them. Soon I'm calm again, trying once more to "let go and let God." Judy Esway is author of "Real LifeReal Spiritu- ality fir Busy People Who Want to Pray," and "Let- ting Go, Reflections and Prayers for MidiS','" Twen- ty-Third Publications. Some days when attempting to pray "1 could hardly speak a word. I honestly thought my prayer life was falling, apart," says Judy Esway. "But that is the first sign that God is inviting us to go deep- er, perhaps into contemplative prayer." CNS photo by Cleo Photography i Thus Meister Eckbart calls this . f God. ' 0 " COntemplative prayer is not self-perfec- ourselves. We turn ourselves over completely to God and consent to God at the deepest level of our being. To be able to hear God, we have to learn the disci- pline of interior silence. St. John of the Cross said: "The "preoccupation. Its thrust moves us beyond in the Marketplace INM,. USsion Point: "" is the "hard part" of prayer for you? Selected Responses From Readers: thing that is hard is that I feel I'm bothering God .... But I not true, and so I keep praying." Ruth (last name withheld), Sioux City, Iowa and getting the solitude and quiet for prayer is a difficult Father spoke from all eternity just one word. And he spoke it in an eternal silence. And it is in silence James K. Liichow, Tulsa, Okla. part is staying faithful to my commitment to set aside the time to I -,ah'V e tWO -- Carole Wielosinski, .Dnaldsn' Ind. grandchildren who live with me, and interruptions are fie- Trudy Colbert, Fresno, Calif. I find repetition boring .... I whine to the Lord how difficult I can neither see, hear nor touch him .... I complain, 'But I "(HOWever) I know in my heart that I do feel his presence... of my fellow man.., hear him when he speaks to me in the Helen Colby Swiers, Fort Madison, Iowa How do you predict that parishes 30 years hence will differ from to respond for possible publication, plea" write: Faith Alive! 3211 Fourth t, L1.C. 20017-1100. that we hear him." This is a magnificent summary of what we do in con- templative prayer. It is also the ultimate healing. Trappist Father Keating qf St. Benedict's ,Monastery, SIIOt'DhqSS, COLD., ]las lllltJlort'd lltlllltJ books and is a uotcd lecturer as well. 0 Food for :thought It was hard not to notice that the care given by a woman | know to her ter- minally ill, bedridden husband was virtually perfect. On occasions when I visited, everything was in wonderful order  including the woman's spirits, acceptance and ability to relate in a loving, uplifting way to her husband. Initially, I wanted to pray that the man would recover, go on with life as before. It's hard not to notice in the Gospels, after all, that Jesus heals. Jesus also tends wonderfully to people who are sick. In this regard, I saw that the woman's care for her husband was Christlike. Entering their home, for me, was akin to entering a sacred space since what Jesus does was being done there. To the extent that prayer has to do with seeking holiness, 1 came to see that holiness was at hand there; it was operative, you might say. For me, prayer in this instance continued to involve petitions  petitions for the well-being of this man and this woman. But prayer meant more. it meant being present where Jesus was present. It meant recognizing that he was mak- ing this couple a blessing and sign for others. David Gibson Editor, Faith Alive!