“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”
– Thérèse of Lisieux
Listening to God is an activity which goes on within our innermost self and this listening involves self-surrender. As such, deeper prayer involves the willingness for the room at our very center to be prepared for the divine Guest. Deeper prayer entails making space for God. One cannot grow in deeper prayer without experiencing deeper conversion; and one’s deeper conversion makes space for deeper prayer. Consider the tree as a symbol of new life. A tree’s roots are just as extensive as its branches. So you too are rooted and grounded in love, and the roots of the depths of your being, hidden with Christ in God, are vital for the visible growth of Christlike character and fruitfulness. Like in the parable of the seed sown in the soil, our hearts need to be made soft and to be converted from being hard ground. The soil must receive the seed, the living Word, and give its consent to its life. The soil surrenders space for the expanding roots of this new life to transform the ground of its being, and for which it is completely dependent in order to become truly human. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
Another metaphor helpful for understanding the purpose of this way is that of the well. There is an aspect of your personhood which is open to waters beyond its depths. But the problem is that we are mostly unaware of this aspect let alone integrated with it. We are like a well that is full of rocks and things with which we find our identity and which clog the inflow of water. This hindering aspect is referred to as the false self and it derives its existence from our inclination to sin. Therefore the self-emptying disposition in deeper prayer is a letting go of the false self. As these rocks and things are let go of they are removed from the well and space is made for the infusion of water. Our true identity is in Christ – we are each a word of the Word. The only way the Word may be expressed through you as your word is for you to live out from your true identity in Christ – your true self. Then the well is operating as intended. The water received from the ground fills the well and overflows into the world giving it life as Life, as Christ carries out his very own mission in each incarnation he calls his own.
I know this sounds all very metaphysical and philosophical, but it is hard to describe concretely what to do in deeper prayer. It is less about doing than being available to be acted upon, and being willing to be shown your “rocks”. And so I have been describing the attitudes (or beatitudes) and dispositions – and what it is you are to desire. You are to desire to die daily! As Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”