COLORADO SPRINGS. Over 300 people came to Holy Apostles on a Sunday evening to benefit from Father Jacques Philippe’s knowledge and wisdom on the topic of personal prayer.
In his two-part talk, Father Philippe addressed the questions of why personal prayer is important and how to pray. Father Philippe, a priest of the Community of the Beatitudes, is the author of several popular books on prayer, including “Time for God” and “Searching for and Maintaining Peace.”
One word to summarize the theme of his talk at Holy Apostles Church on Jan. 6 would be “receptivity.” According to Father Philippe, being receptive to God the Father is key to developing and deepening one’s relationship with God in prayer. But in order to be receptive, we must first make the time to pray.
“The most urgent thing is to be in contact with God, through faith and prayer, and particularly through eucharistic adoration — to be in contact with the Lord. Because he is the source — the source of all renewal, the source of all holiness, the source of all purity,” Father Philippe said.
He recommended praying for a minimum of 10-15 minutes daily, with a longer time once a week.
“It’s this that renews our heart and which can heal us deeply, little by little, and which can also renew and heal the Church,” he said. “When we’re faithful to prayer, it means that we’re entrusting our lives into God’s hands.”
Another fruit of daily prayer is peace, he said.
“When our hearts are at peace, we are more free and we see more clearly when we need to make good decisions,” he said.
In contrast to the confusion and lack of clarity found on the internet, Father Philippe emphasized, the place where true peace can be found is in prayer. Whether it is before the Blessed Sacrament or simply saying the rosary, “in prayer, I know I can find peace,” he said.
Even if one is distracted and seemingly not progressing in prayer, “as long as the prayer is sincere, it’s a prayer of faith and of trust, it puts us in contact with God. And God’s peace comes down,” he said
Receiving God’s peace is important, Father Philippe pointed out, because “we live in a world that’s very agitated, very anxious, and we close ourselves. We need this peace, because it means our heart remains open — open to God and to others, capable of loving, capable of going forward in trust.”
It’s difficult for people in modern society to stop doing and simply receive, Father Philippe said. Unlike every other aspect of our lives, when we pray, “it’s totally different. It’s not about succeeding at anything, it’s not about getting a result . . . winning a competition; it’s very simply about welcoming. God is there. God is good and faithful, and I welcome his presence. I receive the love that God has for me, and I’m also able to share it with others.” So that when we pray we are saying to God, “the only thing I need is you . . . I offer you my heart — come and work in my heart.”
Quoting the section on prayer from St. John Paul II’s 2001 Apostolic Exhortation, “Novo Millenio Inuente,” (At the beginning of the new millennium), Father Philippe highlighted the passage in which the pope states, “What distinguishes Christian life is above all the art of prayer.”
“He doesn’t say the ‘method’ — it’s not a method, but an ‘art,’” Father Philippe said.
Jesus is the prime example of this receptivity in prayer. The way he prayed throughout his ministry taught the apostles that “during these times of intimacy with God, Jesus was receiving everything” from the Father. This dimension of sonship modeled by Jesus is the beauty of prayer, “for I am like a child in the presence of the Father, and I receive myself from God: my identity, my vocation, everything I need to live.”
“Friendship, reciprocity with God, is the condition that is the soul of Christian life, and the condition for all authentic pastoral life. If our pastoral generosity is not founded on this relationship with God, then it may be a little sterile,” noted Father Philippe. “As Jesus said, ‘Abide in me, and I in you.’ . . . Prayer teaches us to abide in God, to live in God’s presence.”
“Prayer makes us discover that God’s love is our home . . . the place where I can be at peace.” If we are faithful to prayer, Father Philippe said, “little by little we experience that it’s not just words, it’s a reality, that God dwells in the depths of our heart.” Therefore we have access to God at any time, even if we’re not always aware of it. “It’s enough to close our eyes and to recollect ourselves, and to adore this presence of God.”
In the second part of his talk, Father Philippe discussed the question of how to pray — not so much a particular method or technique, but rather from the standpoint of the attitude of our heart as we pray. Specifically, he developed the idea that authentic prayer has as its foundation the three theological virtues — faith, hope and charity — and the ways that prayer itself is an act of faith, an act of hope and an act of love.
The best prayer is one which recognizes our own poverty before God and that, no matter what emotions or consolations we have, God is doing something with us, acting within the depths of our heart.
Both parts of Father Philippe’s talk were recorded and are available on the home page of the Holy Apostles Parish website, https://www.holyapostlescc.org/. Scroll down to find links, or access the videos directly at https://youtu.be/h9wG7d-tWXg (part 1) and https://youtu.be/HmoLUuT4SuE (part 2).
(Editor’s Note: A story on Part 2 of Father Philippe’s talk will appear in the Feb. 1 issue of the Herald.)