Becoming a Prayer

 In fact, everything that we have in our minds before the time of prayer is inevitably brought back by memory when we are praying.  So whatever kind of people we want to be in our prayer time, we want to be before we begin to pray.  St. John Cassian, Conferences.

I found  this quotation from Cassian in today’s reading in a wonderful little book, Drinking from the Hidden Fountain: A Patristic Breviary.  In The Conferences (written between 426 and 429 A.D.), Cassian surveyed much of the work of the Desert Fathers.  The Desert Fathers, along with Cassian, provided the foundation of the monastic movement.

St. Cassian reminds us that we cannot separate our prayer life from the balance of our lives.  We cannot separate the way we pray from the way we live.  If our lives are rushed, jumbled and frantic, our prayers will reflect that.  If our lives are self-centered or consumed by pettiness, our prayer lives will not be much different.  If our relationships with our brothers and sisters are shallow and insincere, our relationship with the One God will reflect that as well.

We work so hard to compartmentalize our lives.  We tell ourselves: “This is the face I show at work; this is the way I act with my friends; and this is the kind of person I want to project at prayer.”  Ultimately, I think we’ll find that God sees through these persona, sees beyond the walls we try to build.  We can trust that His love exceeds even our capacity to fool ourselves.  Rabbi Heschel wrote that “To pray is to dream in league with God, to envision His holy visions.”

Cassian rightly notes that as we approach the Almighty in prayer, we bring our lives before Him, whether we intend to or not.  Thus, the Christian life calls us into that process of continual conversion, until our daily lives perfectly reflect the kind of person we want to bring to God in prayer, a person who can rightly share in God’s “holy visions”.  We are all already in a conversation with God, whether we know it or not.  Cassian asks how authentic, how honest and how loving we want that conversation to be.

God watch over thee and me,

James R. Dennis, O.P.

© 2011 James R. Dennis

12 responses to “Becoming a Prayer

  1. As our prayer goes, so goes our life.

    • I think that’s right, Father. As the ancient Church Fathers taught, “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi.”

      Peace

  2. St. John Cassian’s words are exactly what I need for reflection right now. Thank you, too, for your wisdom.

  3. “We cannot separate the way we pray from the way we live.”…so well said.
    Plus, thanks for encouraging me with my new blog…greatly honored.

    • I wish you great success with it, Susan. I hope and pray you touch many lives with it, and find God revealing Himself to you in this remarkable process.

      Pax,

  4. Brother James,

    Thank you for reading my blog and giving it a like. I wrote a new post today and truly intended to include this quote and link to your site:

    We cannot separate the way we pray from the way we live.

    I look forward to following your blog and pray for God’s blessing on your work.

    • You’re most welcome Jody. I wish you great success with your blog. (Although I have recently come to the conclusion that a blog is like the laundry; it never ends. I think I should have asked myself, as Colin Powell once cautioned, “What’s our exit strategy here?”) At any rate, have a wonderful Advent.

      God’s peace,

      Br. James

  5. This is a wonderful offering. I am reminding that each moment is life in prayer, or could be consecrated with prayer; all could be offered in conscious devotion, in this “holy conversation with God” our lives surely brought to spiritual “authenticity”. thank you

    • Linda,

      I think we’re always in a conversation with God, oftentimes without knowing it. Some of those conversations are more honest, more authentic than others. As we move toward those authentic conversations, we move towards the process of sanctification. At its best, I think we sometimes do that without words: “the inarticulate speech of the heart.” Thanks so much for your thoughts.

  6. “His love exceeds even our capacity to fool ourselves.” Game over 🙂 Thanks for this.

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