COLORADO SPRINGS. In the Jan. 18 issue of The Colorado Catholic Herald, the first part of Father Jacques Philippe’s Jan. 6 talk on personal prayer was summarized. In that portion, he focused on why prayer is essential to the life of any Christian, and he discussed some of the main fruits that a regular prayer life can produce.
In the second part of his talk, he covered more practical aspects of prayer, both the obstacles and the joys, that a person might expect as they develop a deeper spiritual life.
He briefly mentioned several different methods of praying, such as meditating on Scripture, speaking to God from the heart, simply remaining in silence or saying the rosary. Each person should find their own way of praying, he said. However, said Father Philippe, “it’s not so important about this or that method, but it’s really the attitude of our heart — that’s the most important.”
He emphasized that “our prayer must be an act of faith, an act of hope, and also an act of love — the three theological virtues — they are also our foundation in prayer.” He then went on to explain how each of these dimensions of prayer are lived out.
“When we pray in a sincere, true way, we are making an act of faith, even if we don’t think about it that way,” explained Father Philippe. We are saying we implicitly believe in God, and that it is worth spending time with him. He asserted that this “attitude of faith is simple but essential, because it puts us in touch with God.”
“Often in prayer we receive consolations, such as positive emotions and feelings, insights, and guidance and that’s a good thing,” Father Philippe explained. “God is not just an idea, but a person who touches our heart.”
But he also described dryness in prayer, where such consolations are absent. “Sometimes God is silent . . . the saints experienced this too,” he told the audience. At those times we can get discouraged, because we think that we’re far from God or we are praying badly, he said.
“It’s very important to remember . . . what is it that puts me in contact with God, with God’s mystery and presence; it’s not the amount of emotions we have,” Father Philippe explained. “(W)e can’t measure God’s presence with an emotional thermometer . . . that’s superficial . . . what puts me in contact with God is my faith: ‘Lord, I believe.’”
With this attitude of faith in prayer, regardless of our feelings, or sensing God’s presence, “in a real way, God is acting in the depths of our heart, and we can see the fruits little by little,” Father Philippe reassured everyone. Faith is what allows us to resist the temptation to discouragement when our prayer is dry.
Father Philippe’s second point was that prayer is an act of hope. “When I pray sincerely, I am hoping in God, I am expecting something from God; I am relying on God.” In every prayer life, Father Philippe explained, “we go through an experience of poverty . . . the more we enter into God’s light, the more we see our poverty — we see our faults, our wounds, the hardness of our heart, our impatience.”
Father Philippe compared this truth to what happens when a ray of sunlight comes into a room and reveals all of the dust, as well as the dirty windows that would never be seen on cloudy days or in the dark.
This revelation can make prayer difficult, uncomfortable and painful. But with the virtue of hope, Father Philippe explained, “we can say ‘Lord, I’m poor before you, more poor than I thought. I can see my misery . . . but I put my hope in you . . . You are the Savior, and I hope in you.’”
Quoting from St. John of the Cross, Father Philippe said, “God gives to us according to our hope, not according to what we deserve.” As in the Parable of the Pharisee and Publican, the prayer of the publican is heard because he admitted his poverty before God. He was healed and at peace. His heart changed because of his prayer of hope.
“There will be moments in our life, certain days in our prayer when we have to practice hope.”
The third dimension of authentic prayer is an act of love, Father Philippe said, a desire to give ourselves to God. “If I pray, it’s because I want to love God, I want to give God my life: ‘Lord, you are the center.’”
“Prayer is not simply an act of love of God, it is also an act of love of our neighbor,” said Father Philippe, especially when we pray for them. “Even if humanly I am powerless to help someone, I know that I can entrust this person to God.”
“Prayer is also an act of charity because it transforms us. It makes me more gentle, more peaceful, more humble, and that’s good for everyone in the family,” Father Philippe said, “God’s love descends into our hearts.”
Another aspect of love in prayer is to recognize that God loves us first, said Father Philippe. “The thing that pleases God the most is to welcome and receive his love . . . it is the most important thing in prayer.”
Concluding with some humorous stories about St. Therese, especially concerning falling asleep, Father Philippe noted that we need to give God the permission to love us, and “to turn toward God in trust . . . The gaze of the Father purifies us.”
Both parts of Father Philippe’s talk were recorded and are available on the home page of Holy Apostles’ website, https://www.holyapostlescc.org/; scroll down to find links, or go directly to the webpages: https://youtu.be/h9wG7d-tWXg (part 1) and https://youtu.be/HmoLUuT4SuE (part 2).
Click here to read Part 1: "Father Jacques Philippe offers instruction in prayer."
(Linda Oppelt is administrative assistant for the Herald and a member of Holy Apostles Parish)