The Bear would like to share some wonderful advice on prayer that recently came into his paws:
Fr. Archabbot Lambert Reilly, OSB gave many retreats to Mother Teresa’s nuns. Fr. Abbot has a great understanding of prayer and I’d like to share some things that he mentioned in his conferences to the sisters.
- Prayer is our first duty in life. Conversion comes through prayer and reflection. You will not go to heaven without it.
- Pray as you can. If you don’t, your prayer life will get worse. Don’t stop because you think you are not good at it. Pray to please God; not yourself.
- The Eucharist is the best prayer. Next is the divine office (the Hours). If the Psalms were good enough for Jesus, they are good enough for me. Lectio divina comes next as a way to pray.
- Do not expect to become a prayer expert. Most of us are not experts. Saint Teresa of Avila knew one nun who never was able to meditate on her own. But, she prayed the rosary constantly anyway and she was the most charitable person Teresa knew.
One of the advantages of lay persons associating themselves with sound religious orders is that you have "big brothers" to emulate and get advice from. They deal with these issues constantly and are experts.
"You will not get to heaven without it," isn't something you're likely to hear in a homily -- about anything. Don't stop, whatever you do, and don't expect to become an expert.
We are results oriented. If we persist at something and find we seem to have no talent for it, the temptation is to give up. Not prayer. The Catholic faith is not about an emotional buzz. Indeed, the old saints are suspicious of apparent extra helpings of God. If that is why you are a Christian, you will cease to be a Christian when the "warm thrill of confusion, that space cadet glow" wears off, to borrow from Pink Floyd. If that's what you're looking for, just bring a rock band into church.
My reading of The Interior Castle has opened my eyes to how unrealistic our expectations can be. Bearing in mind St. Teresa of Avila was writing for cloistered Carmelite nuns, few of even them could expect to reach the higher slopes of prayer, let alone the prayer of union. What, then, should we expect, mired in the world? (Although she did say that those in the world could still have a rewarding prayer life.)
The letter also said God is always with us, even when it doesn't seem like it. "Et ego semper tecum." This beast is always with You. God is merciful. Pax.