–– Sito di FORMAZIONE PERMANENTE MISSIONARIA –– Uno sguardo missionario sulla Vita, il Mondo e la Chiesa A missionary look on the life of the world and the church –– VIDA y MISIÓN – VIE et MISSION – VIDA e MISSÃO ––
Some years ago, I attended a retreat given by Robert Michel, an Oblate colleague and a highly sought-after spiritual mentor.
His approach was disarming. Most of us are forever looking for something novel, at the cutting-edge, outside the box, something complex, but what he offered was stunningly simple and down-to-earth. He spent the whole time trying to teach us how to pray in an affective way.
What exactly does that mean, to pray affectively?
In essence, what he told us might be summarized this way: “You must try to pray so that, in your prayer, you open yourself in such a way that sometime – perhaps not today, but sometime – you are able to hear God say to you: ‘I love you!’ These words, addressed to you by God, are the most important words you will ever hear because, before you hear them, nothing is ever completely right with you, but, after you hear them, something will be right in your life at a very deep level.”
These are simple words, but they capture what we ultimately try to do when we “lift mind and heart to God” in prayer.
In the end, prayer’s essence, its mission-statement, its deep raison d’etre, is simply this: We need to open ourselves to God in such a way that we are capable of hearing God say to us, individually, “I love you!”
This might sound pious and sentimental. It’s anything but that. Don’t be put off by simplicity. The deeper something is the simpler it will be. That’s why we have trouble understanding the deep things, be they of science or the heart. What separates the great minds (Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Whitehead, Einstein, Lonergan) from the rest of us is their capacity to grasp the simple.
Anyone can understand what’s complex, but we have trouble grasping the principle of relativity, the concept of being, the concept of love, and things about the nature of the God, for exactly the opposite reason. They’re too simple. The simpler something is, the harder it is to wrap our minds around it and the more we need to make it complex in order to understand it. That’s true too of prayer. It’s so simple that we rarely lay bare its essence. It has ever been thus, it would seem.
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