A Desert Place for Prayer

Lenten Reading from Father Robert Nash, S.J.,  from back when Jesuits had the Faith.

“And rising very early, going out, He went into a desert place: and there He prayed.” (Mark 1, 35)

And so, we see Our Lord giving us a perfect model for our Lenten prayers. We rise a bit earlier, and then kneel in the quiet dim early morning. Even our sleepiness helps us; we find it easier to be hushed while our sleepy minds are still subdued. Later they will be busy with all our worldly distractions, but now we kneel with our Lord in the pre-dawn desert, trusting in Him to transform it to the Eden of His love.

Now, we know that Our Lord was not seeking solitude in order to attend closer to His Father, for He had always before Him the Beatific Vision. In going out into the desert, He was teaching us how to avoid the “fool of the house” as Saint Teresa aptly named the busybody imagination that is so easily distracted.

From here, we are led to think on the next time we encounter Our Lord in a model of prayer for us…our prayer, here or anywhere else, now or at any other time, is to be made not only with Christ but in Christ. We form part of His Mystical Body, and this implies, — among other magnificent truths — that it is His Will and intention to prolong, to continue, in us, the prayer He made in His life here on earth. He would employ us, use our faculties, our minds, hearts, wills, and bodies, as the instruments by means of which He would go on praying right up to the end of time.

Christ lives in me

Hence St. Paul wrote that inspiring if somewhat startling sentence: “I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me.” He repeats this over and over again. When, then, we kneel for our mental prayer — or for any prayer at all — it is the Will of Our Lord to pray through us. The prayer is not so much ours as His. Why don’t we think more of this stunning fact and work out its implications? At once it becomes clear that if in Gethsemani His prayer was filled with sorrow, with loneliness, with apparent failure, then His prayer in us must, at least sometimes, take on the same characteristics.

Here is the answer to those of us who experience nothing in our prayer but weariness and desolation. Here is the proof that our prayer can be real and efficacious when we seem to ourselves to spend the time wondering if the clock is stopped. St. Teresa, wonderful woman of prayer that she was, tells, us — and God bless her for it — that at times she felt such weariness in her mental prayer that she would shake the hourglass to make the sand pass the more quickly from one section to the other. She had to try to resist that urge, but she did not, always succeed. For us the urge will be to fiddle with our wrist-watch and look at it every few minutes to make sure we don’t remain too long! “What would St. Ignatius tell us? When you are inclined to shorten your prayer, do the very opposite. You want to clip off five minutes; add on five extra instead! This is sound psychology. Try it. In the few extra minutes a generous God often rewards the soul with many lights and graces.

(Father Robert Nash, S.J., “Conversation with God”, in “The Catholic Collection, Catholic Way Publishing,  Kindle Edition.)

  Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of our hearts, Mother of the Church, do thou offer to the Eternal Father the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the conversion of poor sinners, especially our Pontiff.

~ by evensong for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, King.
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O Sacred Virgin! Give me strength against thine enemies!

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