Into The Deep (Hardcover)
Growing in prayer is an exciting adventure! There is nothing more fulfilling in life than deepening your relationship with God. Your desire to begin to pray or deepen your prayer life is one that comes from God himself. This is good news because as St. Paul reveals in Philippians 1:6, when God begins a work in us, he will “bring it to completion.”
Said another way, your desire is the promise of God. It is the unmistakable evidence of his work already under way in your heart and the promise that he will give you whatever you need to realize the fulfillment of your desire as long as you persevere.
As the prologue of the Catechism of the Catholic Church reveals, we were created with this desire and for an eternal relationship of love with God:
God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life. (CCC, 1)
A powerful way to absorb this beautiful passage is to personalize it and say it out loud. Here’s how it reads from this perspective. To get the full import of this astounding reality, read it slowly out loud:
God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created me to draw and empower me to share in his own blessed life.
For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to me.
He calls me to seek him, to know him, to love him with all my strength.
He calls me together with all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church.
To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son to redeem and save me.
In his Son and through him, he invites me to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted child and thus heir of his blessed life.
Understanding, embracing, and living the reality revealed by St. John that “he first loved us” (1 John 4:19) is the first step in beginning—or beginning again—in prayer. This first step is also echoed in another beautiful section of the Catechism, which speaks of God’s desire for us in prayer:
The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him. (CCC, 2560; emphasis added)
Paradoxically our prayer of petition is a response to the plea of the living God: “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water!” Prayer is the response of faith to the free promise of salvation and also a response of love to the thirst of the only Son of God. (CCC, 2561)
Have you ever considered the reality that God thirsts for you? At the Last Supper, the final gathering of Jesus and his disciples, Jesus revealed this same important truth in another way. He said to the apostles, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15; emphasis added). Mystical writers of the Church reveal that the “you” in this passage includes the apostles, but it also is directed to you. Jesus longs to commune with you in the Eucharist at Mass and he longs to commune with you in prayer.
The God of the universe created you for the sole purpose of fulfilling this longing—to be with you, to commune with you, to die for your sins so that you could be eternally reconciled to him and drawn into a relationship of love that is more important than any relationship you will ever have in this life.
The second step to beginning or beginning again in prayer is to begin praying! This is why at the outset of this book I strongly encourage you, if you do not already have a set time to pray daily, to make a firm decision and begin praying today. It is as simple as setting aside ten to fifteen minutes to prayerfully read and put the ideas in this book into practice.
This firm decision should be one that reflects a steadfast orientation to a lifelong pursuit of God in prayer. It should be a lasting determination that no matter how hard or easy that pursuit of prayer is, we will continue to fight. No matter how many times we fail, we will, by the grace of God, begin again. In our determined pursuit we can know that God is even more firm in his pursuit of us and that he will help us every time we fall, as long as we desire his help and choose to get back up. He gave the very life of his Son for us—would he withhold anything else?
Before we jump into how to overcome difficulties in prayer and other wisdom about how to have a rich experience of God in prayer, there is a simple and practical approach that has transformed the lives of millions: Discovery Prayer. Discovery Prayer is a modern name for an ancient but ever new practice called Lectio Divina (a Latin phrase that means “Divine Reading”); this practical method will build a strong foundation for an ongoing prayer life.
Beginning to pray even before we completely understand prayer is the best way to learn, because actually praying is more important than acquiring abstract knowledge about prayer by merely reading about it. No one learns to swim by sitting by the side of a pool and talking about swimming or watching others swim. It is true that once you master the basics, you could spend days on important stroke technique, water balance, and breathing. However, all good swimming courses begin in the water because so much cannot be learned without the actual experience of immersion. We must learn as we do in order to make real progress. So let’s jump in!