Due to Covid-19, my Diocese did not have its usual clergy retreat this year. Instead, I formed a Virtual Retreat which included several Videos by Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston. Here are some thoughts about prayer.
In our current days, we are finding that there is still a desire for spiritual experiences, but unfortunately for some, this search for the spiritual has led to cults, drugs or dangerous thrill-seeking activities. These sorts of things, about a truly spiritual experience, is an expression of assuming that the sensations we feel are the same as the desired end. Cardinal O’Malley expressed this by describing how, at different times, God has manifested himself as a cloud or a bush or a wind, but these manifestations are not God. We can consider that the burning bush was God but God is much more than that. And so when we pray we need to recognize what we are truly experiencing. The peace we get in prayer is not God but it is a result of God who is far more than just peace of mind.
But this experience of God can then be expressed in difficulty in prayer (dryness of prayer), as well as in peace of mind. There are times that God will not give you peace of mind in prayer, so that this ‘dryness of prayer’ would spur you to a deeper relationship with him. For those who are focused on the personal results rather than the end, they may assume that God was not in that prayer that did not result in peace of mind. However, the truth is that God was present at a deeper level during the dryness of prayer.
And so looking at the principal prayer of our faith we recognize God as Our Father. This is an intimate relationship where God is the source of all fathership; the one who created us, corrects our errors and cares for us. And this is why we say the words ‘Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done.’ The importance is not the length of words we say. What is truly important is the acknowledgment that we pray for, not our own will, but for what God wants. We must trust in His will. We seek to embrace the will of God like Mary did at the Annunciation and Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane when he said to his Father in Heaven, ‘Thy will be done.’
And so to conclude let us touch on a few important considerations to consider when we prepare to pray. We need time and space for prayer in our lives. We need some specific prayer time every day to build a firm relationship with God and to be strengthened by that prayer. We also need to find our favourite places to pray to help form the peace of mind that will draw us back to prayer regularly. Of course, families need to find time to pray together, as well. And we should always remember that we go to Mass to pray and adore God, not to be entertained by the Homily or the Music.
May God Bless you. Vivat Jesus
Fr. Edward Gibney