EVERYTHING we’ve discussed so far in this Lenten Retreat is equipping you and me to soar toward the heights of sanctity and union with God (and remember, with Him, all things are possible). And yet—and this is of utmost importance—without prayer, it would be like someone who has laid out a hot air balloon upon the ground and set up all their equipment. The pilot tries to climb into the gondola, which is the will of God. He is familiar with his flying manuals, which are the Scriptures and the Catechism. His basket is tethered to the balloon by the ropes of the Sacraments. And last, he has stretched out his balloon along the ground—that is, he has conceded a certain willingness, abandonment, and desire to fly toward Heaven…. But so long as the burner of prayer remains unlit, the balloon—which is his heart—will never expand, and his spiritual life will remain grounded.
Prayer, brothers and sisters, is what animates and draws everything heavenward; prayer is what draws grace to overcome the gravity of my weakness and concupiscence; prayer is what raises me to new heights of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding; prayer is what makes the Sacraments efficacious; prayer is what illumines and inscribes upon my soul what is written in the Holy Manuals; prayer is what fills my heart with the heat and fire of God’s love; and it is prayer that draws me into the atmosphere of God’s presence.
The Catechism teaches that:
Prayer is the life of the new heart. It ought to animate us at every moment. But we tend to forget him who is our life and our all. —Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), n. 2697
You see, this is why many people aren’t growing in holiness, are never advancing much in the spiritual life: if prayer is the life of the new heart—and someone is not praying—then the new heart given to them in Baptism is dying. Because it is prayer that draws into the heart the flames of grace.
…the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life… These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions. —CCC, n. 2010
Going back to the Gospel of St. John where Jesus calls us to “abide” in Him, He says:
I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
Prayer is what draws the sap of the Holy Spirit into our hearts so that we can bear “good fruit.” Without prayer, the fruit of good works dry up and the leaves of virtue begin to whither.
Now, what it means to pray and how to pray are what we will discuss in the days ahead. But I don’t want to end today just yet. Because some have the conception that prayer is simply a matter of reading this or that text—like dropping a coin into a vending machine. No! Prayer, authentic prayer, is the exchange of hearts: your heart for God’s, God’s heart for yours.
Think of a husband and wife who pass each other in the hallway each day without exchanging hardly a word or a smile, or perhaps nothing at all. They live in the same home, share the same meals and even the same bed… but there is a gulf between them because the “burners” of communication are off. But when the husband and wife speak to one another from the heart, serve one another, and consummate their marriage in total self-giving… well, there you have a picture of prayer. It is to become a lover. God is a lover, who has already given himself totally and completely to you through the Cross. And now He says, “Come to me… Come to me, for you are My Bride, and we will become one in love.”
Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him. —CCC, 2560
SUMMARY AND SCRIPTURE
Prayer is an invitation to love and intimacy with God. Therefore, if you desire this, prayer must take precedence in your life.
Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess 5:16)
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