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On Faith

Allen DeLong

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Ultimate prayer is
listening to the Divine

The fact that the title of this column caught your eye says you probably possess some attraction to prayer. It might come from curiosity or a great need.

The Divine invites all of us to prayer. Oftentimes the distractions and pleasures of the world around us, and the pursuit of them, deafen our ears to the invitation.

From early guidance by our parents or grandparents, we learn that with prayer we can ask for needs, deliverance from a problem or intercede for another person.

This form of prayer is self-centered. It is still prayer, but in its basic form. Sometimes we believe our prayers are not answered.

We are told they are, but in a way we are not aware. When we experience this, we can stop praying, or we can look deeper to see if there is something more that we must do.

When we move our emphasis away from material and personal needs, our attention is drawn to all the wonderful things around us which we continue to receive each day. You feel the need to praise and thank God (or whatever you call the Supreme Being). This form of prayer flows from the realization of the gifts we receive, the beauty and abundance of what is around us and opportunities to grow. Often, feelings of awe and peace accompany this form of prayer.

Another step in the growth of prayer is using your imagination to be in the presence of the Divine. You become part of a dialogue and picture your interaction with the Divine, how you would react in a particular situation, and how you would respond to questions proposed to you.

We examine ourselves and what we perceive as our needs from the perspective of another. Our needs become less important.

When you get to the point of craving silence and solitude, sitting quietly surrounded by soft music becomes a form of prayer. Your mind drifts over the day's events or the things that are happening in your life. You have the opportunity to come to terms with problems, to make peace with disturbances or forgive a hurt. The important activity in this stage of prayer is silence. When you move away from your agenda, you are prepared to receive the gift of prayer.

The ultimate form of prayer is resting quietly in your Creator and listening. Most of the time, prayer in this form comes from years of experience. It is a gift. Answering an interior demand, you become a student of prayer. Solitude has priority in your life. You listen more. You understand the tremendous relief of surrender and slowing down.

Prayer in its advanced form requires putting aside your agenda and being open to receive.

It is letting the Divine Presence become a part of you. More accurately, it is you and the Divine becoming one. Maybe the best way to describe the experience is to say that God speaks within you and God's words become yours.

So you read to the end. If you got anything from this reflection, I hope it is the encouragement to pursue learning and experiencing prayer. It is your calling and a wonderful adventure.

The Rev. Allen DeLong is president of Saint Louis School and a member of the Society of Mary (Marianists).


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