On Prayer--Fluency Comes With Practice

| | Comments (7)

Prayer, as with any foreign language, is built such that fluency comes with practice. Foreign language? you ask. And I say--without a doubt. It is secretly our native tongue, the communication of the deepest part of us to the God who loves us, but when it comes to conscious application--it is completely foreign. Sometimes I think of prayer like my grandmother's recipes. My grandmother made the greatest food around, but if you asked her for a recipe, you were out of luck. She couldn't tell you for anything--in fact, if you asked, she might not even be able to make the thing you asked because you threw up a mental block. But it would eventually go away as she got into her kitchen and fussed around for a while making other things.

Prayer is at once our native tongue that we know so well we cannot tell anyone about it, and it is the hardest exercise in the world when we set our minds to it.

The Rosary is a practice of prayer that leads to a certain fluency, and in some cases a certain glibness or slickness. Some people fire off those Aves with such rapidity that I can hardly wrap my mouth around the first two syllables and they're already done. In church I hear people fire off responses to the Mass as though they were engaged in some sort of race--how much more quickly can I finish before everyone else around me. The practice of prayer, in whatever form you take it, should not lead to greater speed, but if anything, to greater slowness. Prayer is an activity, kind of like bacci in which deliberation and intent and purpose pays off. Not slowness for the sake of slowness, but deliberation for the sake of knowing to whom you speak and about what. Prayer is the ne plus ultra of stopping to smell the roses, because the Rose you are smelling is the archetype of all roses and of all creation.

The practice of prayer leads to fluency in prayer, which leads to deliberation and a focused intent, which leads to contemplation, which, God willing raises the person eventually through God's direct interaction to Divine Union.

But as we saw yesterday, proper prayer requires making a choice. "Choose life or choose death." It requires that we give it our full attention and a good deal of our time. It requires that we be purposeful in our pursuit of it. It requires our complete cooperation with the power of the Holy Spirit, who teaches us how to pray. It requires most of all that we pay attention. Prayer is giving and receiving. But it too often becomes a monologue as we fill the airwaves with our intent. Recall that the command Eli gave to Samuel was not "Listen Lord, your servant is speaking," but to say, "Speak Lord, your servant is listening." And so this flawed teacher of prayer speaks to us through time and directs us to the proper attitude of prayer--speak Lord, your servant is listening.

And just as it takes a while for your ear to become accustomed to the rhythm of a foreign language so that about halfway through that film in French or German, you're suddenly catching a sense of the language and the subtitles become less essential--so it is with prayer. When we start with a will to listen, God will inform our listening so that we will actually hear. It starts slowly and it feels like sifting air, but eventually we will begin to hear through some unknown faculty, precisely what God has for us to hear. And our obedience to this secret hearing is the next step in the fluency of prayer because the act of prayer always is translated to the prayer of action--working God's will in the world in all humility.

Bookmark and Share


Dear Steven,

There is a very good - and timely - article by the late Sister Burrows online at what used to be called Priests and People (now, The Pastoral Review):




Dear Neil,

Thanks once again for sharing the things you find. I really appreciated this article.



Hi Steven,
This totaly un-related to your post but...you had commented at my site about your jouney with the adoption process. Do you have your story here on this site? Could you tell me where I could find it? I'd love to know more about what you went through.

Hi Steven . . . this is also unrelated to your post. Sorry! I just wanted to let you know, if you didn't already, that Flos Carmeli has been nominated in the 2005 Catholic Blog Awards as Most Devotional Blog. Congrats!

Dear Essy,

I don't make public my story to preserve Sam's privacy in some degree; however, if you'd like to e-mail me, I would be more than happy to discuss it with you "privately." I know that it would help a great many people, but then it might hurt the one to whom I owe the greatest degree of protection--I would hate to do that. The only things I post about same are things I can show his future fiancees or friends and have him cringe about.

But as I said, I'm not at all reluctant to share with you in private if that is a line you'd care to pursue.



I'm sorry I just got your comment wrong then...I thought the story had been posted somewhere on here before. I totally understand not wanting to make it public...there are certainly alot of pieces to our own adoption journey that are for the kids to divulge when they are ready to do so themselves.

Dear Essy,

No, I'm sorry, I went back and read the post and I see my vague language did imply that I had written about it. I have, but only brief snippets and comments here and there--no concentrated dose of the experience of the adoptive procedure. But the offer stands if it would help. Otherwise, know that we share vaguely similar circumstances and that my heart goes out to you even as I include you daily in my prayers.

God bless.





About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on February 4, 2005 8:30 AM.

Approaching Lent--Deciding What We Want was the previous entry in this blog.

Devotional Reading of H. P. Lovecraft is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

My Blogroll