Prayer is an essential part of the Christian life, but for many it’s a struggle. Part of us is drawn to God and wants to pray, but another part of us is drawn in other directions. Surfing the web, fiddling with your I-phone or watching T.V. are easy distractions. The tug-o-war between the desires of the flesh and the spirit can be discouraging. After all, prayer should come easily to a devout Christian. Right? If it doesn’t, there must something wrong with me. Maybe my faith just isn’t very strong. The desire to pray is itself a prayer – an action of the Holy Spirit stirring one’s heart. The natural human inclination is to hide from God. But God, the ground of our being, is closer to me than I am to myself. You can’t hide from God. You can try to drown him out with various diversions, but in the end, when everything falls silent, that “still, small voice” begins to be heard.
Silence is the foundation of prayer. As Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “The fruit of Silence is prayer. The fruit of Prayer is faith. The fruit of Faith is love. The fruit of Love is service. The fruit of Service is peace.” It all starts with silence. But most of us live in terribly noisy environments, much of it our own making. It’s imperative, therefore, that we carve out a part of the day for silence. The first ten or fifteen minutes are the hardest. That’s when all the noisy, little monkeys in my head are the most rambunctious. My thoughts race from branch to branch clamoring for my attention. But if I sit still and don’t make any noise, they eventually settle down. All that takes time, ten minutes at least. More proficient pray-ers, I’m sure, can achieve tranquility of mind much faster than that. It takes longer for others. That’s where meditation comes in.
Christian meditation is not what most people think it is. When many people think of meditation they usually think about Buddhist meditation whose aim is nirvana – the liberation from dukka: the state of suffering arising from desire and delusion. At the risk of oversimplifying, the goal in Buddhist meditation is to empty the mind and transcend the self. Christian meditation, on the other hand, seeks to focus the mind on “the one thing necessary” – Christ (Luke 10:42). And the goal is not so much to transcend the self, but to unite the self (soul) with God. The self (soul) doesn’t disappear, but is enraptured and embraced by the beloved.
Everyone at some level wants peace. Peace of heart, peace of mind, peace at home, peace in the world. But most people can’t find it. Only the Prince of Peace can bring peace. To find peace you need to focus on Christ.