Living a Life of Prayer and Compassion

God is graciously giving me the desire to be a prayerful man and to live a prayer-filled life. It is unnatural to me for sure. I haven’t really had that desire in the past and He alone can give it to me. I’m hungry to be less talkative (clearly a miracle) and to live more in the presence of our Holy God. Perhaps it explains my less regular blogging? I don’t know about that, but I am questioning how much time I let the internet distract me. I’d truly like to make every step and every breath a prayer. Because I, like the disciples, don’t really have a clue how to do this, I have been asking God a lot lately to make me a more prayerful person.

A couple of books I am reading right now have some fantastic concepts that are helping me along this path to living a life of prayer. They are “Talking with God” by Francois Fenelon and “the Way of the Heart” by Henri J. M. Nouwen. I recommend both heartily.

Here is how Fenelon tells us to “talk with God” in chapter one of his delightful book:

Talk with God with the thoughts of which your heart is full. If you enjoy the presence of God, if you feel drawn to love him, tell him so. Such sensible fervor will make the time of prayer fly without exhausting you, for all you will have to do is to pour forth from your abundance and say what you feel.

But what, you ask, are you to do in times of dryness, inner resistance, and coldness? Do just the same thing. Say equally what is in your heart. Tell God that you no longer feel any love for him, that all is a terrible blank to you, that he wearies you, that his presence does not even move you, that you long to leave him for the most trifling occupation, and that you will not feel happy till you have left him and can turn to thinking about yourself. Tell him all the evil you know about yourself.

***In this way either God’s mercies or your own miseries will always give you enough to talk to him about….

In either of these two states I have described, tell him without hesitation everything that comes into your head, with the simplicity and familiarity of a little child sitting on its mother’s knee.

Wow. I love it. Pour out your heart. That’s what I long for with my own children. Even when they are mad at me for disciplining them in a poor way, I long for them to tell me. To let me know they hurt. To trust me so much that they know they can tell me exactly how they really feel. It should come as no surprise that God desires the same thing.

Fenelon continues by writing that “[t]rue prayer is simply another name for the love of God.” Prayer simply becomes a life lived for Him. Prayer isn’t just words; it is living. Remember that our Daddy knows what we need before we even ask Him.

It is with these thoughts about being prayer and living prayer that take me to some of Nouwen’s words and concepts. “The Way of the Heart” develops the concept of compassion wonderfully. And he demonstrates how compassion cannot be separated from being a person of prayer. Nouwen writes of compassion:

Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to the place where [the others] are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it. As busy, active, relevant ministers, we want to earn our bread by making a real contribution. This means first and foremost doing something to show that our presence makes a difference. And so we ignore our greatest gift, which is our ability to enter into solidarity with those who suffer.

You see, as we move toward God, even though it may appear as though we are moving away from people (for example, as monks do in a very visible way), our very lives become prayerful and effect ministry because we are filled with God’s heart. God’s heart, being full of compassion, then works through us to enable us to listen, love, and show others the Way to Him.

Oh, God, please teach me to pray! Teach me to pray every day because my life depends on it. Help me to be more and more dependent on You in every way. Help me to know Your heart and Your name above all else! “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:10.

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