Browsing Deacon Ernie's Reflections

November 22, 2020: The Gift of Prayer – Part 2

In last week’s Gospel, Jesus spoke the parable of the “talents,” which in his time were units of measure for precious metals. Today however, we understand talents to be unique skills or abilities individuals possess - e.g., singing, painting, writing, etc. Whether precious metals or innate abilities, the lesson Jesus wants us to remember is that “talents” should not be wasted. They are God-given gifts meant for the benefit of others and for the glory of God. Although prayer would not be considered a talent per se, those who invest time in praying will surely experience its benefits. So I’d like to share some additional insights about prayer taken from St. Francis de Sales’ masterpiece:  An Introduction to the Devout Life. (Listen to audio book)

Saint Francis advises:  Give an hour every day to prayer…, (or whatever amount of time you can spare) preferably, early in the morning when your mind will be less cumbered and fresh after a good night's rest. Prepare by placing yourself in God’s presence. To do this…, we must first acknowledge that He is everywhere, and that there is no place devoid of His most holy presence. Just as birds on the wing meet the air continually, we are in God’s presence always and everywhere. Know too, that God is ever present most intimately, in your heart and mind, which He kindles and inspires…, abiding there as Heart of your heart, Spirit of your spirit…, Some may be willing to acknowledge these truths, but all are not equally appreciative of their importance. They easily forget, and so readily lapse into carelessness and irreverence…, Thus before beginning to pray, it is needful always to rouse your mind and heart to an unwavering remembrance God’s enduring presence.”

I find these insights of Saint Francis to be very helpful in drawing me into God’s abiding presence. When I pray the Lord’s Prayer, for instance, I close my eyes and place my hands over my heart. This simple physical gesture helps direct me to that special place (my heart) where I know and believe God lives. Many people hold their hands out in a gesture of supplication while praying this prayer, as if God is somewhere other than within. While there is nothing wrong with this method, do try crossing them over your heart when you say it, for as Jesus himself said: The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” For behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17: 20-21).

So as we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King this Sunday, let us honor Him by training our minds and hearts to acknowledge the sacred presence of God within us and around us. Then being newly attuned to His voice, we can say with the holy prophet Samuel: Speak, Lord; for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10).

Deacon Ernie

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