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Posts Tagged ‘Pure of Heart’

About Prayer: An Overarching Perspective

(By Jorge Madrid Sr., posted with the author’s permission)

Ark-within-the-Holy-of-Holies

Within-the-Holy-of-Holies

“One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

Prayer, like love,  is a “many splendored” thing – for, in fact, true prayer, to be prayer at all, must be driven by agape love for it is an expression of the love of God which has been poured into us by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5).  It is the media of communications through which we express the love and sincerity of our intent as we live out the surrender of our very selves to the Living God!

It is “many splendored” because of the beauty and multiplicity of its facets. Facets that are designed by God to permit we flawed humans to draw near to the Holy one and express our love and devotion to Him and to Him alone in an infinite variety of ways.  And we know that the only reason we are able to express this love for Him in this way is because, through Jesus, we have come to know Him personally, because He first loved us so that we could love Him!

For many of us, the most common facet of “praying”  is asking or petitioning God to help us in the various difficulties and trials of our lives or to intercede through supplications for the healing or salvation for those around us.  And that type of prayer is certainly exemplified in the Psalms. But from the insight we sense about prayer from reading the scriptures we begin to understand that prayer is the means the Lord uses to draw us closer to Himself by moving us from merely pleading for His assistance, to entering into a relationship with Him by bringing us into his courts with Praise and Thanksgiving and then into the Holy of Holies of His Presence for the ultimate expression of prayer – the Worship of the Most High.

Prayer, can take on many conceivable forms, from a just a whimper of a call to God for help, to a Glorious Chorus of the “Messiah”, to the ultimate prayer of worship at the Eucharist. It may be expressed in our silent adoration of the Sacred Host, or our meditation on His Word. It may be verbal, or non-verbal; it may be as a spiritual song in other tongues, or it may be as a simple prayer of petition. It may be instrumental music, spiritual dance or some other pious action.  But for it to be truly prayer it must come from the very depths of our heart. For it is in the stillness of the sanctuary of our hearts that the Lord desires to meet with us.

To really understand prayer from this level of perspective, we must go beyond the rudimentary concepts of prayer that are rooted in the limited religious experience we received as children. If we wish to go deeper in prayer, we need to first meditate on God’s Prime Directive regarding how we are to love Him because true prayer must be motivated above all by our love for the Lover of our Souls. That is why He says to those who have dedicated themselves to honor Him, “Thou shall love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might”[1].

The first thing we notice is that the directive specifies the three states or levels of awareness that comprise the human essence, namely, spirit (heart), soul (mind), and body (might or strength). These are the three states or levels of human awareness in which Jesus was tested by Satan[2] at the beginning of his ministry. Clearly Jesus was being tested on His faithfulness to this Prime Directive  regarding the intensity of Love for the Divine. Had he failed on any count, Jesus would have been disqualified to fulfill His mission because he would have disobeyed the direct command of God, His Father (and Satan knew this).

Jesus In Deep Prayer

Jesus In Deep Prayer

Applying this directive to our own lives, we see that loving God requires our full commitment at the three levels of awareness of our own person (body, soul, and spirit). Since ideal prayer consists of our expression of love for God, our prayers should necessarily encompass all three levels, although not always simultaneously.

However, the one level each of us must always strive for in order for prayer to be true prayer, is that the intent of our prayer must be driven by the sincere and utmost desire of our hearts (“spirit”) to express our love for God.  The purity (sincerity) of our intent is the altar of incense from which our prayers move to the throne of God. Without this underlying basis our prayers are merely words or thoughts that we utter to ourselves in order to assuage our self-guilt or self image (as in the comparison given by Jesus of the prayers of Pharisee and the Tax collector[3]).

In fact, this impulse of Love toward God is in itself the purest of prayers even when it does not become a thought or a verbal prayer or a pious action[4]. There are those who have dedicated themselves to perfect their personal prayer at this level, the prayer of silence. These are termed as “contemplatives”. For most of   us, however, such a pure intent of love is clouded over by our very human nature that is conditioned to express itself through mental, verbal, or pious action. In many cases we also harbor barriers within our souls that inhibit entry into the purity of the ideal contemplative state. For this reason, unless God has especially graced us with this state of pure prayer, we first must usually first pass through the levels of prayer that involve the expression of our love for God through mental, verbal and pious actions.

The mental level of prayer is sometimes termed “meditation” in the Ignatian[5] sense. At this level we use our mental abilities, including our imagination to ponder the Word of God and the life of Jesus to purify and intensify the loving intent of our hearts before God. Usually the period of meditation is interspersed with pious activities such as acts of repentance, fasting, and confession that reinforce and perpetuate the work of meditation in our hearts. The main intent of this type of meditation is to permit the Holy Spirit to take us from a mere intellectualization of the events of salvation history and bring us to a real spiritual awareness of what this great salvation has accomplished for us individually and to hear the call of God to our spirits to repent and draw near to Him! As we grow in understanding during this period we also begin to see that as the pure desire of  the love of God permeates our being that every thought and act that flows from that love becomes a steady stream of continuous prayer.

As prayer begins to take over our lives we find that the world around us no longer dominates our thinking or our desires. Yes, we are still able to function in the world but now we function as a channel of God’s love for the world. We are more and more able to see the Kingdom of God being manifested in the circumstances and people around us. We no longer need to be in control  because now every circumstance in our lives is redeemed to be used by our Creator for the manifestation of His Kingdom. Praised be His Name forever!

Prayer is integral and essential to a person’s spiritual life. St.Theresa of Avila in her masterful treatise on the spiritual life, “The Interior Castle”, she states that “… souls that are without prayer are as people whose bodies or limbs are paralyzed: They possess feet and hands but cannot control them. In the same way there are souls so infirm and so accustomed to busying themselves with outside affairs that nothing can be done for them, and it seems as though they are incapable of entering within themselves at all. Unless they strive to realize their miserable condition and to remedy it, they will be turned into pillars of salt for not looking within themselves, just as Lot’s wife was because she looked back.”

Regarding entry into the spiritual life, our “interior castle”, she continues saying,

“As far as I understand, the door of entry into this castle is prayer and meditation. I do not say mental prayer rather then vocal, for if it is prayer at all, it must be accompanied by meditation.[6]

If you  are hungry for God, if you are seeking Him and Him alone then find the door to your “interior castle” and enter in through prayer, centering on Him who is the “Door”, Jesus, the Son of the Living God! For He says to us: “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you”[7]

~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~

Entering the Inner Stillness

Enmeshed in life’s commotion,

Our ears deadened in the strife,

As cries our famished spirit

For the real sustenance of life.


From an inner thirst and hunger

Beyond all the world can impart.

Beyond the parched desert of emotions

For a Love that satisfies the heart.


Why then, do we refuse to listen,

If so desperate our plight ?

To words of Life beyond our hearing,

To visions of Love beyond our sight.


A Love that knocks incessantly

‘Til our gates we open to its Life.

To drink in the Living Water

And consume the Bread of Life.


Enter then, that inner stillness,

God’s sanctuary, in your soul,

And imbibe that Love Eternal

That fills and makes you whole!

Jorge Madrid Sr., AMDG

~~~~~~~

(By Jorge Madrid Sr., as excerpted with permission from “Thy Kingdom Come” by Jorge Madrid Sr.; © 2003 Madrid Family Trust, all rights reserved)

Footnotes

[1] Deuteronomy. 6:5

[2] Matthew 4:1-11

[3] Luke 18:10-14

[4] See Chapter 3 in the booklet “The Cloud of Unknowing”

[5] I  refer here  to “The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola”

[6] See First Mansions, Chapter Two, Paragraphs 6 and 7 in the “The Interior Castle”.

[7] Matthew 7:7

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Sermon on the Mount

Sermon on the Mount

The Beatitudes (Matt.5:3-11)

“Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

My Fellow Pilgrims,

Having shared with you my reflections on the first five Beatitudes dealing with, the brokenness of spirit that leads us to the “Beatitudes of Conversion”, I now, with much trepidation, share with you my reflections on the “Beatitudes of Expression”. These are the beatitudes that conclude the work of the Holy Spirit in us – that brings us into full conformity to the to the “image of Christ” – the outward expression of the life of Christ in us.

Notice, that I say, “with trepidation”, because in sharing my reflections with you, I need to admit to you that what I am sharing is only what I see ahead for me in my walk of discipleship. Right now, I go in and out of this stage in my spiritual growth as the Holy Spirit is still working on my conversion phase.  The works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21) are being pruned from me so that the fruit of the Spirit might come forth to His glory (Gal. 5:22-23)!  The beatitudes I am reflecting on, here, are what give me hope as I continue my walk along the path of discipleship.

Thus, as I proceed to tell you what is in my heart, I ask your loving understanding and prayers and request that you please submit what I am sharing to discernment, in prayer, through the Holy Spirit and the Word Of God. Praised Be The Holy Name!

The Sixth Beatitude: Blessed are the Pure in Heart, for they shall see God …

This beatitude poses what appear to be two impossible challenges of faith to the dedicated disciple who, by now has all his focus on drawing near to the Father by yielding himself totally to the Spirit of Jesus, so that in Him and through Him we may come into communion with the Father.

These two challenges of faith are:  (1) How can man with a fallen human nature obtain to the purity of heart required to draw near to the throne of the Most High? (2) How can man with a fallen human nature see the transcendent and Holy God who is beyond our nature to see? After all, scripture tells us that when Moses asked to see the Lord God the Lord said, …

“I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you my name, ‘The Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.  But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.’ (Ex.33:18-20)

And the Book of Psalms (Ps24: 3-4) poses the two rhetorical questions …

Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?

And who shall stand in his holy place?

And provides a seemingly unachievable rhetorical response …

[Only] Those who have clean hands and pure hearts..”

For the Old Testament believer these were indeed formidable barriers to coming to know or see the Holy God, the Creator of heaven and Earth.

Even the High Priest who entered the Holy of Holies once every year could only come into the Sacred Presence before the Ark of the Covenant after a sacred ritual of purification in the holy Laver and bearing the Blood of the Holocaust Victim in his hands. Any impurity or deficiency, either in ritual or in his person, would result in certain death.

But, ah! Brethren, we must not forget that we are “New Creations” in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) and we come before the Throne of Grace not on the basis of our own righteousness or works (Heb. 4:16). We have the imputed potential to come near, in faith, robed in the Righteousness of the Son and through His cleansing blood!

But the decision is ours, we must, in faith, put on our “New Man” in Christ (Rom: 13:14). We must transition from an imputed righteousness to our own expressed righteousness or holiness (flawed though it may be) so that we can truly be a living expression of the very life of Christ in us. We must cry out to the Lord just as David, in his repentance, cried out for the Lord to create in him a clean heart.

“You desire truth in the inward being;

therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness;

let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins,

and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and put a new and right spirit within me.

Do not cast me away from your presence,

and do not take your holy spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,

and sustain in me a willing spirit.” (Ps. 51: 6-12)

Now if we have just emerged from the conversion/repentance experience, as through the Beatitude of Holy Mourning, we have lived this prayer ourselves. But if we, on the way through the other beatitudes, have sinned, and separated ourselves from the Lord, we must, at this point, return to the Beatitude of Holy Mourning so that, with a pure heart, we can proceed again in our quest to enter the Beatitudes of Expression, where the Lord so rules in our being that everything we do, or say, or think, comes from His Heart in us and NOT from our own desires or thinking.

The Lord wants to set us free from the burden of guilt and from the destructive force of sin in our personal lives. He wants to purify our hearts and renew our minds so we can love and act in every situation as he would love and act. The Lord is ready to change and purify our hearts through the grace and help of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. Like a physician who probes the wound before treating it, God through his Word and Spirit first brings sin into the light that we may recognize it for what it truly is and call upon his mercy and grace for pardon and healing. The Spirit of truth is our Consoler and Helper. His power and grace enables us to choose what is good and to reject what is evil.

It is in just such a cycle of purification that I find myself in. For a moment, it seems, that I enter the expressive phase of the beatitudes and in that moment I am no longer my own, but Jesus’. However, because I still have trouble keeping my flesh under control, very shortly, I find myself responding to the flesh rather than to the spirit and thus I fall from the grace to which the Holy Spirit had taken me.

Then, through the compassionate Grace of the Holy Spirit, I regress back to the Holy Mourning and the sacraments of Reconciliation and Communion that restore me again to the place where I can be an instrument of His Grace and His Love in this world!  In this purification process, I find that the more frequently I partake of these sacraments the longer I am able maintain my state as His instrument of Love in this world. Praised Be His Holy Name!

Whenever, I am in this state I find myself more and more open to see what God is doing in and around me and this permits me follow Him, obey Him, and thus complete His work in this world. Remember, Jesus only did something if He saw the Father doing it (John 5:19), and He was able to see what His Father was doing because of His intimate relationship with Him. In this way we see the Father as Jesus saw Him. Also as, we obey the Father in our lives through the Spirit of Jesus in us, our intimate relation with Jesus permits us to see the Father, for, after all , He is the image of  the triune God incarnate!

It is essential, then, that as we progress in our pilgrim’s walk, we keep in mind that it is in maintaining this intimate relationship with Jesus that we are able to “see” the Father and His Love so that, through this “seeing”, His purpose in us may be fully accomplished. Remember what Jesus told His disciples …

“If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ ” (John 14:7-9)

It is at this stage, when you are totally yielded to the Spirit of His Love and “see God” through Jesus, that all that you do is anointed with God’s Love – the “agape” or divine Love that Paul speaks of in his letter to the Corinthians when he declares that,

“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1Cor. 13:1-3)

That is why it is so important that we as Christians yield ourselves completely to the Holy Spirit and through a Pure Heart maintain our communion with the Son. In this way, and only in this way, can we truly be the instruments of His Love in this world!

But we must be very careful in our walk at this stage. We must not presume that due to our state of intimate fellowship with Jesus that we cannot fall. In fact, because of our human tendencies we are even more susceptible to fall into sin, especially, the sin of spiritual pride.  Thus we must be very honest with ourselves and with Our Lord regarding our weaknesses, asking for the graces we need to keep from falling. As you proceed, keep in mind the following scriptures …

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:5-10)

“Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked.” (1John 2:4-6)

Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.” (1John 3:2-3)

I conclude with this quotation from “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas A Kempis:

“You must bring to God a clean and open heart if you wish to attend and see how sweet the Lord is. Truly you will never attain this happiness unless His Grace prepares you and draws you on so that you may forsake all things to be united with Him.” (Chapter 8, The Intimate Friendship with Jesus)

I pray, brethren, that my sharing with you has helped you on your spiritual Journey. In my next posting I will continue with my reflections on the remaining  “Beatitudes of Expression”. In the meantime I exhort you to enter into your secret place with the Lord and ask Him to evaluate your spiritual progress so that you can determine those aspects of your spiritual walk need to be corrected or strengthened by Him.

May the Lord richly bless you as you walk along the Narrow Path with Him!

Bartimaeus

© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, 2010, all rights reserved

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Related Links:

Reflections on the Beatitudes (Part 1)

Reflections on the Beatitudes (Part 2)

Surrendering to Divine Love

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