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Experience of God / PART 3: Downhill Rush vs. Hot Chocolate

You Pray How You Live
by Fr Nathan Miller LC | Source:
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Not unlike the beginning snowboarder, who fearfully leans BACK instead of forward while picking up downhill speed on the snowy slope, when it comes to deep contemplative prayer many souls experience frustration simply because they don't know where to lean, and because they seek control, they lose it; they eventually give up, sprawled in the snow, or wrapped around a tree trunk.

   Okay, so maybe you're not wrapped around a tree and you still haven't snapped any limbs, but hey, there comes a point, after fearfully leaning back time after time, that you just want to sit down and rethink: "This is useless. I'm wasting my time. Maybe I should go back to the lodge." - And you begin to imagine yourself warm around the fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate in your hands...

   St. Teresa of Avila was well aware that the primary need of souls seeking God in prayer is not to find the ideal method, but to do God's will always and everywhere in the nitty-gritty of LIFE.  In tweet-style prayer could be summarized thus: "You Pray How You Live."

   Contemplative prayer is God's gift!

   However, he only gives that gift to those who are ready!

   So how can you prepare yourself properly to receive God's gift of himself in prayer? How can you "let go" enough of yourself to trust God completely to the point where you can lean FORWARD on your downhill trek? Teresa offers 5 conditions. When these suggestions are lived faithfully, God will not hesitate to give you that downhill rush you have been struggling to achieve with your own meager efforts.

   I - God's Will is more important than ANY good work. If your choices are not part and parcel of what God is asking, then even in doing good things, you will hinder God's ability to touch your soul in prayer.

   II - Your Fidelity does not depend on Others. There is no one to blame or to thank for your growth in virtue and the living of God's will in your life. You are free! And God will reward you for YOUR decisions. Saints in concentration camps prove this point well.

   III - All You Need is Love. God is not interested in a flat, banal fulfillment of laws. He seeks the heart. The more you love him in the fulfillment of your duties, the more you will open your soul to receive his touches of grace in prayer.

   IV - Purification of Faults. Teresa stresses the acceptance of any and every trial to one's own advantage. Those who reject or struggle against difficulties as means to purification of soul also hinder God's loving action. The all-pure God gives himself most freely to prayerful souls who stand before him purified of their faults.

   V - It is a Narrow Gate that leads to Life. Following upon the last principle, if you wish to stand pure before God, passive acceptance of difficulties are not enough. The soul who actively seeks to purify his earthly clingings through penance, fasting and mortification is the one most blessed by God's overwhelming presence in prayer.

   Is a final corollary, it should also become obvious that downhill snowboarding does not depend on age, but on properly leaning downhill as one picks up speed. So with prayer ... there are many in the spiritual life who remain toddlers either because they continue, in fear, to lean back, or worse yet, because they pack up and head to the lodge, where the fire is warm, and the hot chocolate too.

To read more about this:

Experience of God / PART 1: RAIN

Experience of God / PART 2: SUNSET

Fr. Nathan is editor of

This Catholic Formation Service is also available by e-mail.

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