October 3, 2011

The Road of Prayer - the Path to Integrity

Those who wish to embark on the road of prayer in earnest must travel down the pathway of integrity of heart.  This means we must seek to be completely truthful about ourselves with God and we must submit what is in our hearts to the judgment of God.  Many people mistakenly believe they can do this by themselves.  But this is pure folly.  No one has come to full maturity in Christ without the help of many brothers and sisters in the Church throughout his life.  The Lord has chosen to allow us to submit ourselves to his judgment through those He sends us, through those to whom He has chosen to make us accountable.  Such truthfulness with God and with those He sends in our lives requires a struggle for humility, a battle against pride and a fight against any kind of self-reliance that prevents us from turning to the Lord.

In his rule, St. Benedict observes that progress is gained by learning to be transparent with someone to whom you are accountable.  He had in mind a spiritual father but this could also be a spiritual mother, a confessor, a spiritual director, or even a good spiritual friend.  It is important to submit our struggles to someone with a little wisdom and who is concerned that we come to full spiritual maturity. The fact is that we cannot face what is in our hearts by ourselves and we need one another.  In a special way, those who have devoted themselves to seeking wisdom of heart through prayer and study are in a position to help us with this task.

Why do we hold back from God and why are we afraid to share with those who can help us with the dark struggles in our lives?  Instead of thanking God for his generous love in sending us his friends, we are afraid of what they might say or think.   Their very presence brings us to the brink of a conversation with God in which the way we live will be questioned.  We are afraid of this judgment only because we do not realize how much we are loved.  When we recognize we have lost our courage to approach God, when we find ourselves afraid to open ourselves to someone He has sent to us to help us find our way home, there is little else to do than to admit our lack of trust and to call out to the Lord, "Lord, have mercy!"  His merciful love is so great, He will not fail to give us the courage we need to bring our fears and shame into the light of day.  He is in fact giving us this courage even if the truth comes out only a little bit at a time.

In humbly disclosing the struggles of our heart, the first words are the hardest and give the most glory to God.  This act of humility we make at such moments is something that only his own humility makes us capable of offering.  Such holy conversation is a start, a step along the way to the integrity Christ calls us to -- a little progress along the road of true prayer made possible by his grace.