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“Therefore, behold, I will draw her to me, I will lead her into the wilderness and I will speak to her heart.” (Hosea 2,16)

God is a dialogue of love and calls us to dialogue with Him.

To pray is to enter into this dialogue with God who seeks us and desires to be with each one of us.

“Prayer is a conversation, a dialogue, a conversation of the soul with God. Through it, we speak to God and reciprocally God speaks to us; we aspire for Him and breathe in Him and reciprocally He inspires in us and breathes on us.” (Theodotion VI, 1).

“Behold: I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door for me, I will come to him and dine with him and he with me.” Rev (3:20).

To pray is to keep the door of our heart open. As Pope Francis says, “God is the friend and the bridegroom. In prayer we can establish a relationship of trust with Him, so much so that in the ‘Our Father’ Jesus taught us to express to Him a series of needs. We can ask God anything, everything; explain everything, tell everything. It does not matter if we feel at fault in our relationship with God: not good friends, not grateful children, not faithful spouses. He continues to love us. This is what Jesus demonstrates definitively at the Last Supper when he says: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Lk 22:20). In that gesture, Jesus anticipates in the cenacle the mystery of the Cross. God is a faithful friend: even if human beings stop loving, He continues to love, even if that love leads Him to Calvary. God is always near the door of our heart and waits for us to open it. And sometimes He knocks on the heart but is not compelling: He waits. God’s patience with us is the patience of a father, of one who loves us so much. I would say, it is the patience of a father and a mother at the same time, always close to our heart. When he knocks, he does it with tenderness and with much love.

“I have told you these things while I am still with you. But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (Mt 16, 25-26).

The protagonist of prayer is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord Jesus, who wishes to live and walk with us every day, to enter and inhabit our heart.

As in the parable of the merciful father, God continually gazes into our hearts from afar, always longing to see us return to Him, even with a single nod.

Prayer is first of all openness to this gaze, to this relationship, to the gift that God wants to give us of His Love, so that we can perceive it, encounter it, feel loved by Him and reciprocate this love in our daily lives.

If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him.” (Jn 14, 23)

By speaking to us through His Son (Word), God enables us to speak to Him as children (prayer).

Prayer is, therefore, listening to the Word of the Lord which is given to us in order to enter into full communion and union with Him. If we entrust ourselves to the Word, we will be transformed by it little by little, because it is efficacious and does what it says. The Word must be welcomed not only as a teaching that can enlighten our minds but also as a seed that mysteriously makes the life of Jesus germinate in our hearts. He is the ‘Sower’ and we are invited to be “those who, having heard the Word with a whole and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with perseverance” (Lk, 8-15).

At that time, as a large crowd gathered and people from every city flocked to him, Jesus said in a parable, “The sower went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, one part fell by the wayside and was trodden down, and the birds of the air ate it. Another part fell on the stone and, as soon as it sprouted, dried up for lack of moisture. Another part fell among the thorns and the thorns which grew together with it, choked it. Another part fell on the good soil, sprouted and yielded a hundred times as much”. Having said this, he exclaimed, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

His disciples questioned him about the meaning of the parable. And he said: “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God; but to others only in parables, because by seeing they may not see and by hearing they may not understand.”

The meaning of the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. The seeds that fall by the wayside are those who have heard it, but then the devil comes and takes the Word away from their hearts, lest by believing they should be saved. Those on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the Word with joy but have no roots; they believe for a time, but in the time of trial they fail. The one fallen among the thorns are those who, after hearing, on the way let themselves be suffocated by the cares, riches and pleasures of life and do not fructify. The one on the good ground are those who, after listening to the Word with a full and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with perseverance.

“I particularly recommend mental prayer that engages the heart to meditate on the life and passion of the Lord. If you contemplate Him often in meditation, your heart and soul will be filled with Him; if you consider His way of acting, you will take His actions as a model for your own. He is the light of the world: it is therefore in Him, by Him and through Him that we can be enlightened and find clarity. Believe me, we can reach the Father only through this door” (Philothea II:1).

Prayer aims at union with God and the fulfilment of His will. It gives us the right sense of our wretchedness as creatures and our greatness as children of God. It makes us capable of discerning by reading reality and history with God’s eyes. It makes us grow in the attitudes of faith, hope and charity.

There is nothing that purifies our intellect so much from its ignorances and our will from its evil affections as prayer which introduces our mind into divine clarity and light and exposes our will to the warmth of heavenly love; it is the water of blessing, which, sprinkling us, makes the plants of our good desires green and blossom again, washes our souls of their imperfections and extinguishes the passions in our hearts” (Philothea II, 1-2).

Let us all try to pray in this way, entering into the mystery of the Covenant, to place ourselves in prayer in the merciful arms of God, to feel wrapped in that mystery of happiness that is the life of the Trinity, to feel like guests who did not deserve such honour and to repeat to God, in the amazement of prayer: is it possible that You know only love? He does not know hatred. He is hated but He does not know hatred. He knows only love. This is the God to whom we pray. This is the glowing core of every Christian prayer. The God of love, our Father, who waits for us and accompanies us.” (Pope Francis)

In this journey, the best guide is Mary. She knew how to be the good soil of the Word whom she welcomed with her FIAT and generated not only in her heart but also in her flesh.

Learning to pray

St. Francis de Sales invites us first of all to prepare the heart:

I would like to remind you of the preparation which consists of the following points:

I propose four ways to help you put yourself in the presence of God. Do not pretend to use them all at once. Choose the one that suits you best, simply and briefly.

  • The first is a lively and careful awareness that God is in everything and everywhere and there is no place or thing that does not manifest his presence. Although we know this, we often do not think about it and it is therefore as if we did not know. That is why, before prayer, say to your heart with deep conviction: “My heart, God is right here!”

  • The second way is to think that He is not only present in the place where you are but He is particularly present in the depths of your heart. And your heart is His privileged and special home!

  • The third way is to think of our Saviour who, in His humanity, from heaven with His gaze continuously follows all people on earth.

  • The fourth way is to imagine the Saviour close to us, just as we want to be with friends. If you are then in a place where the Blessed Sacrament is, this presence is real: He is really present there. He sees you and thinks of you (Philothea II:1-2).

The second step is to approach the Word.

I take the chosen passages for prayer. I renew within me the consciousness that this Word is full of the Holy Spirit and I begin to read it with an attitude of respect and basic interest in it. I read and reread the text until my inner attention lingers more on certain words, drawing from them a certain flavour, a warmth, or until I perceive that certain words begin to relate more vividly to me. Or when I understand certain words as particularly important for me, for my situation, for our church community or even for present context. Then I dwell on them and begin to repeat them in a low voice, with attention to my heart and my relationship to this Word, that is, a Person speaking to me. In this way, as I repeat these sacred words for several minutes, perhaps with my eyes closed, I am not so much attentive to their meaning as to who they are, what they are full of and where they are meant to take me. It is the Word of God that arouses in me a veneration, a fear, a respect.

As Origen taught, it is the Word imbued with the Holy Spirit. When I listen to the Word, repeat it or simply pay attention to it, it is the Holy Spirit acting in me. The relationship that is established with the Word is realised by the Holy Spirit and is in Him. It is the Spirit who opens me to the attitude necessary for the Word to speak to me. Since the Word is a living Person, I do not need to attack it with my own in order to know it. I can also interrupt the repetition of the Word to tell the Lord some reflection or feeling of mine that I am experiencing at that moment. The important thing is that all the time I keep this formula of speaking, thinking, praying to a Thou, that is, maintain an attitude of relationship with God. I must not be afraid to tell, at the beginning perhaps even in a low voice, my reflections, questions, thanks, supplications to the Lord, calling him by name” (Rupnik - The Discernment).

The third step is to identify the good resolutions that prayer has aroused in us:

Coming out of meditation, Philothea, you must take with you above all the resolutions and decisions you have made, to put them into practice immediately during the day. This is the indispensable fruit of meditation. As you leave the prayer that has engaged your heart, you must be careful not to shake it; you would risk spilling the balm you have gathered in prayer. I mean to say that, if possible, you should remain silent for a while and gradually bring your heart back to consciousness, preserving as long as possible the feelings and affections that have blossomed within you.”

For personal prayer and meditation:

  • Is your prayer a silent listening to the Word of God?

  • Does this listening become a true and personal dialogue with the Lord?

  • Do you let Mary accompany you in prayer to be a good soil?

Monthly commitment:

Devote time to prayer with the Word of God.

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