In today's reading from Matthew, Jesus speaks about some ways to pray that are not really prayer. But when you come right down to it, just what is prayer? For myself, I believe that the traditional description is the best: prayer is raising your mind and your heart to God.
As far as most of our prayer is concerned we act as babies do: we signal our dependence with a wail for milk or, as we grow older, with a succession of "gimme" demands that don't always have a "please" or a "thank you" attached to them. We spend much of our time asking God for things we think that we need, even good things that He wishes to give us, and very little time in thanking Him, in asking what we can do for Him, in asking that He enlighten us about Himself and His desires, or even simply surrendering ourselves to Him in complete gratitude and trust. We are very much aware of what we want and where we get it from, but we think only of the getting and not of the Giver.
I think that the best prayer is more about our lifting our whole minds and hearts to God, directing our entire attention and all our faculties to Him, and simply being present to an Almighty Father who already knows what we need. More than only asking, such prayer is opening ourselves to let Him reveal His Self to us and to receive whatever it is that He wants us to know and to have. Such prayer leaves God free to be God.
God also reveals us to ourselves, letting us see who we are and understand our relationship to him, showing us how we are loved and where we need to grow. There is an incredible number of ways in which He can do this, as each of us is individual and each day we respond to Him differently and grow towards Him in a new way. But a great deal of such prayer is the Holy Spirit addressing us on our deepest levels, speaking in ways far beyond our words or understanding and in ways that will bear visible fruit in us only later, at the proper moment.
Let us respond to Christ's call by simply going to a place of silence and gently opening our hearts to the One who loves us more than we do ourselves.
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