One of the most important aspects of discernment is developing an interior prayer life. For me, prayer is more than just the recitation of memorized lines, and it certainly is more than just a bunch of requests we ask God when we need something (although this is an important and fundamental part of prayer). My understanding of prayer is that it is a way of developing a relationship with the Lord. It is our way of communicating with God, a way of asking for something, a way of saying thanks, a way of praising, and a way of listening to Him.
Throughout the Postulancy program, my prayer life has evolved beyond being mostly supplicatory in nature into one of quiet listening. When I first entered religious life, I experienced great disorientation; the kind of prayer that I had practiced prior quickly ceased to be spiritually rewarding. During community prayer, I often found myself distracted and wandering in my own thoughts. Since I had expected to fall deeper into the type of emotional prayer I was accustomed to, I felt lost and I began to question the validity of my vocation.
Because of my frailty and doubt, God, in His infinite kindness and generosity, would often provide me with little moments of guidance to assure me of His calling. One of the things I learned (through the advice of a wise, holy friar) is that the disconnect I felt in my prayer life was perhaps an invitation from God to delve deeper into my relationship with Him. This friar reminded me of St. Teresa’s admonition against relying on child-like emotional prayer and he encouraged me to discover new ways of conversing with the Lord. In time, this was reinforced by various workshops and retreats, wherein I was exposed to a new kind of prayer – a prayer of silence and quiet trust in His presence.
St. Teresa once said that “Mental prayer is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.”
I like this idea of being “alone with Him who we know loves us.” Often times, in trying to remember everything I need to pray for, I forget to be present and in the moment. Silent prayer is teaching me to quiet my own interests and to listen to the One who called me to this life. I hope to progress along this path in the coming months and to be a better listener as I discern God’s will in my life.
The photos below were taken at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land, in Washington, DC. One of the pleasures of living in or near a city like Washington, DC is finding small pockets of peace and tranquility amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. The Monastery is a great place to pray, rest, and to be alone with the Lord.