Today we will discuss prayer in the life of the Christian and its importance during the Lenten period.
As we discussed in our previous sessions, during the Lenten period we are called to a discipline of fasting, of giving and of heightened awareness in our prayer life. Usually when we think of prayer we define it as a conversation with God. While this is an acceptable understanding of prayer, we must also admit that conversation is a two way street and so, if we are to talk, we must also listen.
Let us begin by listening to the words of Christ regarding prayer. We read from the Sermon on the Mount, (Matthew chapter 6): “And whenever you pray”, Jesus says, “Do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you they have received their reward. But whenever you pray go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father in secret. Your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you are praying do not heap up empty phrases, as the gentiles do for they think they will be heard because of their words. Do not be like them for your Father knows what you need before you ask.”
Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms that God knows the wants and needs of our hearts. He knows our deepest desires. Therefore, the question comes up, if God knows what we need and want, why pray? Prayer, therefore must be more than a conversation with God and it is.
As much as prayer is a conversation with God, more importantly, it is a conversation with the self. It may sound strange that the self would not know its own needs, but think about it for a moment. The needs and desire of your heart are within your grasp, and the prayer that you make to God can only be to awaken and strengthen your resolve to actualize your dreams.
The self needs to be awakened and that is what this Lenten journey is all about. Lent is that windshield wiper that drives away the dirt, the grime and the rain that is blurring our vision. It allows us to see the clear picture, to see the life that is in front of us.
During the Lenten Journey, we are streamline and minimize. We find what is truly necessary to survive and live. We fast and in our prayer life we have a conversation with our self to find the true desires of our heart. In so doing, we discover that we can actualize our desires with the tools that God has given us, namely with faith, hope and love our deepest dreams can come true. Through the Lenten Journey, we wash away the toxins in our system and eliminate the excesses only to uncover and find the true treasures in our life. They are not the things and stuff that consume our daily existence. No, we find the real treasures of faith, hope and love.
During Lent we have a beautiful opportunity to communicate with God and with our selves. We understand that God and self exist in a unique relationship that brings them into close proximity and connection.
St. Gregory of Nareg (Gregor Narekatzi) reminds us that prayer is a conversation that originates from the depth of our heart, that is, from the center of our being.
For today’s lesson, I ask that you find a place where you can be alone. It should be where you are not easily distracted. You may wish to burn some incense to keep focused. By looking at the smoke that rises to heaven, you will be reminded that your prayers must also rise beyond yourself and the temporal plain. As you smell the fragrance of the incense, it awakens your senses, much like the Zen master that paddles his students who have lost focus and fallen asleep. While in prayer we need that awakening, that jarring, that says stay focused and listen to the sound of God.
When you are alone, awake and in prayer, be concise and precise in articulating your heart’s message. As our Lord says, your Father already knows what you need. Jesus, therefore, instructs us with a model prayer: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory. Forever and ever!”
As you say, “Amen” at the end of the prayer, let it be! Release yourself to God. Submit. Let it be! Give it all to God and then sit back and listen. Give some time to listening in your prayer life. Away from distractions with a clear focus, listen to how is God responding to you? What is God saying to the depths of your heart? You may not hear an answer right away, but trust me, in the next few weeks, as we travel this Lenten Journey together, your senses will become more aware. You will be more conscious of your surroundings and to the voices that do not talk to ears but to the heart. Yes, you will be hearing with your heart!
Let us pray…
Heavenly King, grant me Your kingdom, which You have promised to Your beloved; strengthen my heart to hate sin, and to love You alone, and to do Your will. Have mercy upon Your Creatures and upon me, a great sinner. (I confess with Faith by St. Nersess Shnorhali, vs. 13/24)
On this third day of Lent, I invite you to begin journaling. Write the wishes of your heart and write the responses you receive. You will find this a helpful practice during the Lenten season. Especially as we begin this Lenten Journey, it may be tempting to stray.
This post is brought to you by Madame Kubah