How to Pray Humbly
Without learning humility our prayers are shrouded with pride
Most of us don’t realize that we pray most of our prayers full of pride. Yet, praying with true humility is necessary to hear God properly and obtain the grace He desires to give us to help us in this life and to grow into a saving faith. Sure, growing in true humility isn’t easy, but praying in a humble, childlike, manner isn’t hard at all.
There is a correct way to pray and a wrong one. One that will obtain much grace and one that keeps us praying in vain in which we will obtain a little, if any grace. We need to learn the proper way to pray so we can love God well and accept all of the wonderful help God wishes to send us.
To pray (communicate with God) correctly–humbly–we must:
- become like a child (Matthew 18:2) *
- be able to recognize God’s voice (John 10:27-28)
- pray knowing our nothingness (Matthew 6:5-6)
- don’t see our self as any more or less than who we are (Galatians 6:3)
- have faith–trust in God (Mark 11:24)
- don’t seek attention, respect or praise from others (Psalm 63:1)
- pray with few words…listen (Matthew 6:7)
- ask God for what we want…then trust with what He allows (Matthew 7:7)
- have gratitude for everything–even our crosses (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
- seek to learn from God in all circumstances (Proverbs 1:5)
- pray simply (Matthew 6:7)
- pray alone and in groups of two or more (Matthew 6:6 & Matthew 18:19)
- seek God’s will (Matthew 6:10)
- want God’s help (Matthew 6:11)
- want God’s forgiveness (Matthew 6:12)
- know and have sorrow for our wrongs (2 Corinthians 7:10)
- have a heart that truly forgives others (Mark 11:24)
- only want to please/love/obey God (1 Corinthians 10:31)
- desire remove our sins and grow in goodness (Proverbs 15:29)
- don’t ignore any of God’s Word (Proverbs 28:9)
- have fear of the Lord–fear of sin (Mathew 6:13)
- pray all of the time (Ephesians 6:18)
- be attentive to God–no daydreaming/sleeping during prayer (Colossians 4:2)
*Learning how to pray humbly, like a little child, is the culmination of proper prayer.
God tells us in His Word that nobody will enter into the Kingdom unless he becomes like a little child. This is where our efforts need to be if we want to pray well and obtain a saving faith.
Become a Little Child
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2).
That is a pretty concerning statement. We better figure out what becoming like a little child is all about since God very clearly told us we will “NEVER” enter into Heaven unless we become one.
This might be quite confusing to us since children are known to be terribly selfish, quite defiant and horribly stubborn, wanting what they want when they want it. But we must work to obtain enough of God’s grace to become like a little child…not like a defiant poorly behaved little child but like a well behaved one.
When I show us the beautiful endearing qualities of a little child we will easily see how it is the child that can truly love God and accept His saving forgiving mercy.
To do this, we need to put on our imagination cap. Seriously, we need to imagine what a three year old child is like. If you haven’t been around three year old’s in a while then go to the mall or park and look at how a three or four year old responds to their parents and life’s challenges. Look at their perfect trust in their parents. Analyze them…to obtain Heaven we need to become like them. This is important. Of course don’t pick the three year old that is tired and has behavioral problems to emulate…but the loving one.
In our life’s choices, needs, and reactions to problems, we need to become like a well behaved three year old who approaches his parents for guidance and help, learning with perfect trust.
“Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Luke 18:16).
The qualities a little child has which help us obtain the Kingdom of Heaven:
- trust in their parent to guide them correctly/safely (fear nothing except to disappoint them),
- don’t feel they know more than their parent,
- want to be with and love their parent above all,
- believe they need their parent for everything,
- desire to please their parent,
- seek to love their parent,
- don’t doubt their parents’ words,
- grateful for all their parent allows,
- stay close and follow their parent everywhere,
- sincerely strive to obey,
- have true sorrow when wrong is done,
- aren’t tainted with the impurities of the world,
- they are perfect (not able to really chose to sin since they still lack full knowledge of right from wrong).
What beautiful humble qualities! Lets all strive to acquire these life saving virtues. Because “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
“I will be with you always, if you always remain a little child and fear nothing.”
–Jesus to St. Faustina
Look at the beautiful child. Three year old’s adore their parents, run to them, cuddle them, and want to be with them. They know their parents very well–not from reading a book about them–but from being with them and can easily recognize their voice.
A little child’s heart isn’t attached to all of the pleasures of the world. They would give up any toy–anything in the world–to be with their parents. They know they need them and won’t leave their eye sight. They aren’t full of pride thinking they are self-sufficient or more than who they are. They truly want their parents help and know they are little and need their parents for everything believing they truly know what is right. They are more than willing and ready to learn. They don’t think they are better with more knowledge than anyone and love all even the least of us. When hurt by another, they never hold grudges and forgive easily.
When they struggle or fall, they run to their parents for love and help, instead of seeking consolation from friends or the world’s pleasures. When they do good, they seek the praise of their parents…not the approval/praise of others. Three year old’s trust perfectly that their parents know what is good and best for them. They don’t doubt their parent and seek their own way. When they do wrong, they are sorry and apologize with the sweetest sincere love and honestly don’t want to commit that wrong again.
Three year old’s are honest and don’t think of themselves as more or less than who they are. They don’t lie to themselves or their parents and pretend to be who they aren’t. They want to please their parents out of love for them not to take their love, but to give love. They don’t think what is asked of them to do is a burden. They are happy to stop what they are doing to fulfill their parents’ will. Three year old’s don’t refuse to do what their parent says, doubting or ignoring their call. They believe their parent call, want to do it and do their best to serve them.
Three year old’s are pure, wonderful saints–not even able to truly chose to sin. They aren’t full of all of the vanities and lusts of the world. They are perfect. “In respect to evil be like infants [not able to sin]” (1 Corinthians 14:20).
“We ought to pray like little children of four years old, who have no guile [cunning intelligence]. They tell their Mother everything.”
–St. Jean-Marie-Baptiste Vianney
Consequences of Poor Prayers
Many of us think we are praying well, but sadly when we pray, most don’t pray like a child. If we wonder why God doesn’t seem to answer our prayers or why we aren’t growing in faith (not becoming like Christ), if we are praying, it is quite likely from the errors in our prayers.
Depending upon our amount of pride, the consequences of our poor prayers can:
- insult God, making our prayers ineffective and hurtful (Proverbs 21:24)
- cause God to not hear our prayers (1 Peter 3:12)
- reject some, if not, all of God’s helping and saving grace (1 Corinthians 15:1)
- have us living deceived–thinking our prayers are pleasing to God and that we are receiving grace, when we aren’t ( )
- cause us to suffer–without peace–from lacking some or all of the help God wants to give us ( )
- cause us to not grow in trust in God to save us if we follow Him ( )
- cause us to not amend our sinful ways ( )
- keep us from truly knowing, hearing or being united with God ( )
- keep us from knowing The Way to Heaven ( )
The errors in our prayers must be amended as they can push away God so greatly, we will walk blindly to our eternal doom because of them.
“That praise wounds My Heart…souls full of egoism and self-love, souls full of pride and arrogance, souls full of deceit and hypocrisy.”
–Jesus to St. Faustina
Not Really Praying at All
Before I talk about how to pray well (humbly), I need to mention that the devil is so cunning, that there are many who think they are praying and even greatly, but actually don’t pray at all. We will have habits of prayer, but sadly we still don’t really pray or we have once truly prayed, but when great pride developed, we lost all real prayer.
Real prayer: is any prayer we pray that is humble enough, in which God hears and we can accept some or all of the grace God sends us now or from what God has promised to send us in the future.
We can see real prayer coming from many new converts…like the prodigal child. But what happens to many of us is after we change some of our life, gain some knowledge of the faith, and grow in some pious habits, we now grow in pride…losing our childlike qualities. Then we lose our humble prayer and replace them with proud hypocrite like prayers losing much or all grace. This is the horrible truth for so many religious souls.
As a result, tragically, many will go Mass, “pray” the rosary or other devotions, visit adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, love the faith and think about God throughout our day and yet, we still will have not prayed a single real prayer. We will be filled with self-righteousness instead. This is tragic as many who think they are quite faithful and even saved, haven’t even advanced enough in faith to actually pray a single true grace worthy prayer to God.
And as horrible as this is, from the same pride that is killing us, most simply can’t humble ourselves enough to admit we are doing such a thing and sadly, never change.
For example: People in trouble will pray, “God help me!” But God, who reads our hearts, knows if we have any humility (knowledge of any of our real sinfulness or have any true childlike qualities) and if we want to amend our sins (many of which are causing all of our trouble) or not.
Even if we lie to ourselves and “say” we want to change, if we don’t really desire God’s mercy, which is help to amend our sins and grow in humility…like a child–and only want God to help us in our life, to make life better for us or others, then our prayers insult God and most receive little or no grace.
“[Don’t sin/lack humility] that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).
This loss of grace is reality for many people. The evil one will even have us “saying” we are great sinners who want to amend and grow in perfection with all of those childlike qualities, but if we honestly look at our actions, we will see our words are merely lies. And if we can’t get out of this rut…our prayers will simply get us nowhere.
We need to go to God, outside of our prayers, to obtain grace to gain a real desire to love God…even if it is just a slight honest desire (slight humility). That way we can grow from there, if we wish to obtain any grace to grow into a saving faith. To learn more please read, “How to Obtain God Grace.”
Many will think we have a great relationship with God, when we only know about Him…we don’t actually know Him personally, because without properly praying, we don’t really know Him. Sure we can gain much knowledge about God and the faith from reading about Him, attending retreats, vacations to holy places, or participating in Church educational activities, etc. And that can be good and can excite us into wanting to grow in the faith. However, that is a beginning. Yet, many think that is an end…that now we have a great relationship with God because of them. But that is from the deception of the evil one.
If our efforts to seek knowledge doesn’t lead us into amending our sinful ways and growing in real–humble–prayer then something is wrong. If we don’t delight more in prayer than in reading/studying or doing anything else–then all that knowledge is in vain.
“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears turned to their prayer” (1 Peter 3:12).
For example: If we read a book about St. Teresa the Little Flower, we can come to know much about her life, which is good. We can develop a passion about the saint and perhaps even visit her shrine and birthplace. All of that can give us a great excitement about her and her holiness. But, do we really know her or just know about her?
Who really knows her…well, her family, those she was in the convent with…and her friends. Yes, they know her. Why? Because they had real experiences with her.
We don’t know someone by just reading about them. We know them by talking and spend time with them.
The same is with God…we can grow wonderfully in knowledge of the faith and come to know about God from studying the marvles of the faith, but if we don’t spend time with God, in prayer–real prayer–not sleeping or day dreaming or just rattling off words or praying with hearts full of pride, but praying with real heartfelt humble prayers, then we can’t truly come to know God or ever really pray (obtain grace from our prayers). We must be humble.
“Clothe yourselves with humility” (1 Peter 5:5).
But to get there we must know, desiring to pray is a gift from God (from grace that we accepted) and praying correctly is a gift too but that gift takes time, for most, to acquire. God can plant a seed within us and give us a desire to know and love Him, but sadly many go about it all wrong, and never even gain enough faith to really pray. To learn how to grow in faith correctly please read, “How to Become a Saint.”
Telling God What We Want
We pray incorrectly in many ways as I explained above. A big mistake we make is, we pray telling God what we want, expecting Him to obey us. What beautiful child does that?
We say, “God, please help me get a job so I can feed my family,” which is a fine request, that is, if our heart is correct, but for most, it isn’t. Most pray, expecting God to get us a job, thinking that is faith. But that isn’t.
Most are confused thinking since the Word says, “everyone who asks, receives” (Matthew 7:8) or “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move” (Matthew 17:20). Yet, we are deceived into thinking God will give us what we ask for if we believe. But that isn’t what these verses mean at all. That isn’t true faith.
You see, when we pray, God wants us to ask for help but with a heart of true faith. Of course, we can move mountains but that is when we have a heart of true faith. Our prayers will be great, but we must have a heart of true faith…THE FAITH OF A LITTLE CHILD.
When we pray any prayer like: asking God to please get us a job, that needs to be done with a heart that only wants God’s will–that only wants what God wants (like a good child)–since we should know God knows best.
Being attached to our will is what kills us. From our great sinfulness, we simply can’t see what is truly good or truly bad. Therefore, to accept God’s grace and grow in faith and peace, we must let go of what we desire, ask God for what we “think” is best, but trusting completely in what He allows to happen as truly good…even if it is horrible, full of suffering and we just don’t understand. That is what someone does with a heart of true faith.
Wanting God’s will is the foundation of our entire faith. Our Lord saves us by us following His will for our lives. Each circumstance in life, God is wanting to teach us and guide us to how we need to change and grow in goodness/faith. This we must learn how to do. To learn more please read the article, “What is God’s Will.”
“You need endurance to do the will of God [so Our Savior can move us away from desiring sin and our attachments and into desiring God alone] and receive what he has promised [Eternal Life]” (Hebrews 10:36).
Even if we feel certain that what we desire is God’s will…we are NEVER to expect it or be insistent on it. If God wills us to get a job that is great, if He doesn’t, that is His will and great too. The only thing we know for sure is God wills for us is to obey, come to know the truth (how to obtain Heaven), so to have a life of peace and the salvation of our souls. How God wishes to bring us there is only known to God, but if we want to get there, we need to allow Him to bring us there, by trusting in what He allows in our life as the the next step we need to take to obtain the goal.
“[God] wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4)
When we pray, if we trust that God’s knows The Way, we should ask for what we think is best…what we think is God’s will, but not be insist that we get it. Praying like this, “God, please, IF IT IS YOUR WILL, help me get a job so I can feed my family.”
A heart of faith doesn’t want to move the mountain unless it is God’s will. When we pray with a heart that truly trusts in God, knowing and really believing everything–tragedies and all–God allows is really meant to become something good (if we trust). Then all that is allowed to happen, will be perfectly acceptable to us…because we truly trust in Him knowing it will bring us and others to the wonderful life of great peace and “attain the goal of [your] faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9).
So, if our child is diagnosed with terminal cancer, we don’t despair. If we do, we have just proven we don’t want the cross, lack much faith and don’t have a saving faith of true trust in God. No, we pray and pray to God for strength, and we trust in Him. Then, we pray, “Lord, if it is your will can you please cure my child.” Next, with true faith–really trusting that whatever God allows is good–we move one step at a time, learning, growing, changing in holiness and doing what God wills–perhaps it is towards a healing or perhaps towards our child’s death–knowing it is all good…while living in perfect peace…knowing He is teaching us His blessed ways, trying to bring us to a Saving Faith with every circumstance in our lives. To learn more please read, “What are the Requirements of Salvation.”
It is this heart of faith, like a child, that God’s grace can truly flow through and really move mountains. The rest of us with less faith, sadly only reject God’s grace from wanting our will and not God’s. So, even if God wants what we desire–to use us to move a mountain–much of the time, He can’t, since we rejected His almighty power from our pride.
“His grace to me has not been ineffective [since I had a humble enough heart to accept it]” (1 Corinthians 15:1).
That is why the “prayer of a righteous person is very powerful” (James 5:16), they reject much less grace from God (if none at all) and have the incredible power of God right at their finger tips. Sometimes God uses the not so righteous to do great miracles through too…so beware; just because someone seems to have the great power of God at their disposable isn’t a test of their faith…as God tells us “Many will say to me…Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?”…sure someone of true faith will have the power of God’s grace available to them (dispersed in different ways according to His will), but true faith is proven in the desires of the heart, which only God can read.
KnowledgelessOne of the main reasons we can’t hear and accept God’s grace through our prayers is because we are so strong willed. Like I said, our prayers are filled with wanting our desires. We tell God what we want…expecting Him to obey us…like we are in control of God…acting as if we know The Way. Sadly, we want what we want, the way we want it…like a poorly behaved selfish child. How prideful are we? If something goes, what we believe to be as wrong, we run to God in despair. We think what God has allowed to happened is all wrong. Really? Sure what has happened might be something terrible, but God has allowed it. Therefore, if WE TRUST IN HIM, He will make it all good. Not according to our plan, but His. This is how the saints prayed…they said, “if it is your will….(and then made their request to God).” The saints never wanted their will…They never asked God anything with the hopes He would grant their request if it was against His plan of goodness. We need to emulate the saints and pray asking for God’s assistance if something bad does happen, then learn what He wants to teach us in that circumstance (as God constantly desires to teach us The Way more perfectly), change if possible, and trust in Him to make everything all good, when and how HE WILLS. If we want to hear God and receive God’s love and help, we need to open up our ears and not refuse God’s love because we think we know better. Like a little child, we need to let go of wanting to be in control and desire nothing but what God wants because we don’t know The Way…He does.
“I want to teach you spiritual childhood. I want you to be very little, because when you are little, I carry you close to My Heart.” –Jesus to St. FaustinaIt doesn’t matter how much we think we know or how many degrees we have, when we are with God, we know nothing and need to learn and trust in Him for everything. Truly compared to the Creator of the Universe, even if we are the wisest most knowledgeable man on earth, we are knowledgeless. The more little we can make ourselves in our minds, like a little dependent child, the better we will be able to love, hear and accept God’s grace, since it is our pride that pushes God away. If we pray wanting to know God’s will, how can we ever hear it correctly if we are full of blinding pride and think we know the Way? We must let go of all we desire and only desire God and His will, fully understanding we don’t know the Way as we seek Him. This is how we trust in God.
Talk and Listen Like a Child
When we pray in any form of prayer, our minds need to convert into that of a three year old child who loves our Father, and wants to learn from and please Him.
When we kneel before God to talk or listen, we need to imagine ourselves as a little girl or boy. We need to literally transform our minds from the business man or woman, from the head of the house, from the leader of many, or whatever our role in life is, into that of a little girl or boy who knows nothing and need’s God for everything.
Call out to God saying, “Lord (as if we are calling out to our daddy with such love and desire to please Him), please teach me my misery so I can change. Help me to love You and do what You will perfectly.” Talk to God like a little child, no lofty words…but little ones.
If we have to pray out loud in our ministry don’t try to impress others with eloquent speech. Even allow others to ridicule us for our poor prayers if the Lord wills. Rejoice in our nothingness. Then pour out our heart like a little child to the Lord caring about nothing but Him.
“Lord, hold my hand, guide me, teach me, and help me so I can accept your wonderful love and then teach me how to give that beautiful love out to others so I can guide them to You.” Of course if God gives us a tongue that can profess, without trying, beautiful words of love…don’t suppress that either…just be whatever little child God made us, never seeking to impress–just seek to love God.
Then when a simple prayer has been prayed, say nothing…listen, go with God and allow Him speak to the desires of our heart so He can use us for His will.
“A PURE soul is with God, as a child with its mother. It caresses and embraces her, and its mother returns all its endearments”
–St. John Vianney
When we are done praying continue to seek His will alone in the silence of our hearts…never loosing site of Him in any of our actions so to make sure we are doing His will and loving at all times. If we fail to love, run to Him, ask for forgiveness and strength to do better and then do what is necessary to change. Only seek to please Him and be greatly sorrowful when we don’t.
If God has given us responsibilities, leadership, success, knowledge, friends, etc. it is extremely important we do this–become little–so we don’t crave the power, accomplishments, and praise, etc. as we ask God to humble us…so only God and His glory can shine. How easy it is to become attached to the approval of others. Remember, we are just an invisible speck of dust. We don’t want to shine…just God.
We want to transform our hearts from being concerned about countless worldly matters into only being concerned with what our Daddy in Heaven is concerned about–just like how a three year old, who only desires His parents affection and never wants to hurt them.
Cry out to God, “make me nothing” then speak no more…just listen and learn how to do that. Be silent. This is the contemplation we need to learn the Way. Turn off the radio and all of the devices and be with God in SILENCE. Say a few words and listen open our hearts focusing on God’s love. He will guide us.
We Must Be Alert
We must pray all prayer being in the state of great humility knowing our nothingness. But on top of that, if we want to pray well, so God can use our humility to enlighten us, we need to be alert.
Many people make the mistake and go to talk and listen to God (pray) using a method of prayer (words, thoughts, meditation, or contemplation) and think this is supposed to be a time of great relaxation. But, we are confused.
Yes, God has asked us to rest in His peace and prayer time shouldn’t be stressful…but God doesn’t mean for us to go to Him to talk and listen to Him and fall asleep. That should never be our goal.
If falling sleep happens and that is the best we can do, that is OK for now. But that can’t be our intention or something we don’t seek to change.
God wants us to be attentive. We can’t hear God talking to us if we are daydreaming or sleeping. If I want to talk to you and you have something important to tell me, will I hear you and understand what you are saying if I don’t pay attention (daydream) or fall a sleep…of course not.
Prayer isn’t sleeping with God–that is literally just sleeping–not praying.
To pray well our minds need to be away from the world’s distractions, attuned and focused on God…listening to Him. Certainly God doesn’t want us to focus on nothing or just one word (even if it is related to Him) as that is trying to stop our intellect from going to thoughts that God wishes to lead us into to help guide us in our daily lives. But rather, we are to give all of our attention–using our minds to its fullest–and allow Him to communicate to us about whatever He wills.
We can pray with one word, but if God desires to lead us into different thoughts that is fine as long as it isn’t daydreaming. If that occurs, then wake our selves up and focus on God again. God will enlighten us to His truths this way.
One day we won’t understand a Bible passage and from God enlightening our minds during correct prayer–when we didn’t even know it–from being open to receiving God’s grace during prayer, we will now understand what that passage. God will form our desires of our hearts in this way to make them His.
True Christian Prayer is attentiveness with God. Not daydreaming or sleeping. I have never read of a saint praying without giving all of their attention to Our Lord. St. Theresa of Avila, who was blessed with great spiritual closeness with God and was able to clearly describe the journey to get there was, “against some methods of prayer which are not inspired by the gospel and which in practice tend to set Christ aside in preference for a mental void which makes no sense in Christianity” as Pope St. John Paul II declared.
If we want to pray well and we do something while we pray that subjects us to inattentiveness to Christ, we need to change and not continue to do the things that keep us from being alert and focused on God if we want to grow truly close with Our Lord and in wisdom of the Truth.
“[In prayer] taking it upon oneself to stop and suspend thought [to one thought] is what I mean should not be done; nor should we cease to work with the intellect” (St. Teresa of Avila).
Some people like how they pray because they feel relaxed and more at peace after they do it. Sadly, no matter what I or the saints say, from their stubbornness and pride, they have no plan on changing. We need to be careful that we don’t fall into that trap. Even if we have been praying wrongly our whole life and think it has benefited us, we need to change as that isn’t going to help us obtain Salvation. It is true, God, out of His merciful Heart, might even bless us a little for our broken efforts to try to know Him, but we are greatly missing all He has waiting for us to guide us to Life if we stay in any incorrect prayer. We are supposed to take the grace He is sending us and use it to grow and change.
We need to consider why anyone does anything. Why do Buddhists practice clearing their mind of thought with the goal to be come happy? Why do people of no faith meditate on the earth or practice yoga? Why does anyone else practice any religion, meditation or do anything of relaxation at all? Do we really think all of the other people out side of our faith or style of prayer are experiencing nothing? Of course not. They most certainly are experiencing relaxation and some sort of pleasure–a positive result–or they wouldn’t do it. Anyone one would feel less stressful and more in peace if they quited themselves and were still, trying to leave the stress of the world and calmed down. That is good. But Atheists do that too. That isn’t proof of faith or the lack of faith. Those are “normal human responses” we all have when we banish the distractions of the world and seek peace.
However, when we are truly praying well and experiencing the great healing love of Christ, which is magnificent above an beyond any “natural human response,” there will be continuous amazing spiritual growth and it is incredibly magnificent exactly like St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross have so eloquently described for us in their books.
For many, God blesses us with spiritual interest and/or growth (a spark) and we might even be blessed to experience some of the healing love of God, and are transformed in some way coming to know God a little bit better. But if we don’t kindle that fire and help it grow and grow into a ravaging burning flame of love, we will never experience the prayer life God wants us to have and that of the saints, which is waiting for us too. If after years of praying, we aren’t experiencing what the saints have enjoyed in their prayer life, we are doing something very wrong. Sure not everyone will reach the heights of unity with God as some others do, and we all will start at the beginning and advance at different rates, but our spiritual life, if we are approaching it correctly, should always be growing and changing like the saints have described if we are truly walking towards the path of Life with Christ properly. We won’t stay the same, having the same relationship with God year after year nor will our change be so little over such a long period of time. We will be growing at a good rate from our strong faith as we pursue Christ truly seeking to leave all sin and love the cross. And boy do we need a strong faith to obtain a saving faith and banish our desire for so many sins. We need the strength of an Olympic athlete. We need the strength of God.
Praying well is done by uniting our thoughts to Christ, especially His passion. That isn’t done by thinking about our worries and how we need God’s help…no, it is done by contemplating on Christ’s love for us–His passion–seeking His mercy so we can trust in Him and obey His will perfectly. This is how we grow. Sure we can go to God with our worries and problems, and according to God’s will, He will answer and help…and of course when seeking God’s help we should always have the intention of receiving His healing so we can become MORE OBEDIENT and FAITHFUL children. However, that isn’t the way to gain true knowledge and wisdom.
On Loving God
If we would spend just a few moments daily contemplating Christ’s passion, that alone would help us grow leaps and bounds spiritually. It would help give us true knowledge of the horror of sin and its consequences and help us understand the real love Christ has for us so we can truly trust in Him. (Read the article “How to Truly Trust in God” link at bottom of this article to learn more.)
Anyway, there are many ways to pray well. Of course, praying the rosary, contemplating the Word, and meditating the Stations of the Cross, are all fantastic prayers meditating on Christ. But I also recommended, “The Precious Blood of Jesus Devotion” which is also very good at helping us grow in true love of God and it can be a daily devotion. But with all of that said, the important thing we must always remember to be successful in any Christian prayer, so we can really grow in perfect peace, wisdom and closeness with God, is that we need to always be working on knowing and banishing sin together with being alert and focused on Christ and seeking to do His will. If we aren’t working hard to banish our sins, our desires to advance in spiritual life will be in vain–since nothing inhibits spiritual growth more than not seeking (working) to stop sinning.
“Contemplative prayer seeks him “whom my soul loves”…In this inner prayer we can still meditate, but our attention is fixed on the Lord himself” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2709)
Pray While Admitting Guilt
Sometimes we pray the prayers of the saints who truly love God and no longer saw any guilt–mortal sin–upon their souls–that was separating them from their Lord, from their true contrition-horrific detestation for sin. Yet, even with that, the saints didn’t dare presume they were saved, as St. Paul says, “I do not even pass judgment on myself; I am not conscious of anything [mortal] against me, but I do not thereby [presume I] stand acquitted [forgiven]; the one who judges me is the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4). Nonetheless, the saints feeling they might be without guilt, wrote such beautiful prayers of their true love for God for their love has grown greatly like St. Alphonsus De Liguori has done in his wonderful and popular “The Way of the Cross.” However, since we aren’t close to his holiness and love for God, please don’t pray his prayers with a heart declaring our true love of God. We don’t have it. Be honest and humble with God. As we read St. Alphonsus De Liguori’s wonderful words of love: “I love Thee, O my Jesus, with my whole heart; I repent of having offended Thee” at the same time as we read his words of real love, knowing our hearts aren’t yet true, don’t repeat back to God the same words as St. Alphonsus…God doesn’t want our lie. No, say St. Alphonsus’s words but pray back to God our own plea for mercy saying to God, “I desire to love Thee, O my Jesus, with my whole heart; Please help me truly repent of having offended Thee.” This is the humility that pleases God and softens our hard hearts into accepting God’s mercy.
Truly, if we know we are still quite guilty of loving some sins, and haven’t grown enough in our faith to have what appears to be true contrition for each and every sins…then our prayers that we repeat of the saints are nothing but horrid prideful lies if we declare to have the love that they do. St. John Vianney declares these false declarations of love are nothing but, “insults which we are paying to God.” Yikes! We don’t want to insult God by telling Him how much we love Him, when He knows very well, we still don’t. If our faith hasn’t grown into a true faith yet, but we are oh so blessed to be able to see our misery and can be honest with ourselves (which will lead to Life), and we still know we have a way to go until we truly want to stop all of our sins, for we can see we still sadly crave some of the pleasures of the World and don’t yet burn with love for God alone (click here to learn what the real mortal sins are), then when we pray we must humble ourselves properly before God. God knows we don’t truly love Him…covering our guilt in the form of a prayer is a horrible insult to God. Professing to God we love him with all of our heart, when we are far…very far from that is meaningless to God. So follow St. John Vianney’s advice and don’t lie to God; tell Him the truth and say, “My God, I do not love You, but all I ask is the grace to love You”…My God, I do not feel any sorrow for my sins, but give me all the sorrow which I ought to have for them.”
Truly this works. When reading the Word, do the same thing. Every time the Word shows someone’s righteous behavior, don’t look for how we are righteous too….look for our guilt. Then ask God to teach us how to sin no more so He can bring us to the true holiness of the saints. Never look for our good, only our misery. We aren’t good. Only God working through us is good. We are nothing. This isn’t low self-esteem…this humility. Never pat our self on our back for what God is doing…all good is God’s alone. Ask God for help. Take what ever faith we have and grow. Learn to pray humbly and grow in great wisdom, holiness and happiness knowing we are nothing and God is everything. Then watch God do wonders through us. Some can grow so very quickly…it all depends on you. Pray!
“I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
Grow in Knowledge and Wisdom of the Truth
God wants us to be vessels of His love to others and that is done, not by priding ourselves thinking we know what is best, but by humbling ourselves, knowing we know nothing, allowing God and His love to work through us, so we can truly bring the knowledge and wisdom of the Way to others through our love. When we work, we need to let go of thinking we know what is best and the perfect Way from our experience and success, even though we might have much success and great knowledge and wisdom, but rather consider ourselves as knowing nothing without God. If we do recognize God’s gifts He has given to us, we must never be certain we are without error. Anyone can be deceived and nobody has perfect wisdom, therefore we always need to be alert, like a little child, looking to learn especially from the least of God’s children. It is easy to learn from those “above” us, but it takes the truly humble to learn from someone underneath us (as far as society views people). If we think someone under us or seems to have much less knowledge can’t teach us anything, then our pride will blind us to so much God is trying to teach. Because God gives wisdom to the humble. We must be willing to learn from others, even if we are the teachers or should I say, especially if we are the teachers. That light of truth will quickly become veiled with an attitude of great pride that can easily occur when one gains much knowledge. Once we stop listening to others for God speaking to us, once we stop looking for God to talk/teach us, in every experience, thinking we know more than everyone else, we loose the light. Yet, the devil will have us thinking we are privileged, knowledgeable ones, when we are now walking into darkness. We, on our own, know nothing and even if we have much of God’s grace to have wisdom, we still know nothing compared to the magnitude of God’s mysteries. Therefore, when we work from this knowledge God has given us, we must open our minds becoming as little as we can be allowing God to work through us, relying on Him alone, so our pride doesn’t snuff out God’s marvelous work He wishes to do through us. Anything else is the devil using our pride and the knowledge we have received to serve ourselves…from our hidden selfish motives.
Therefore, even if God has us as leaders and teachers of the faith or directors of large corporations or charities, we need to become like little children when we work, pray, listen to the Word, partake in the celebration of the Mass, and even when other talk with us so we can be humble enough to learn what God is trying to teach us at all moments of our life. We can’t be so sure we are right and so judgmental of others thinking they are wrong that we can’t hear God speak to us through even the least of God’s children. Sure some people will say crazy things that are horribly misguided, but if we assume everything others say is wrong and that we surely know more than them or that God can’t teach us something through our experience with them, our pride will most certainly will drown out God who speaks to the little child in the most unexpected ways. Nonetheless, when others are speaking or preaching, no matter how wrong they might have been in the past, if our hearts and minds are that of a little child looking to learn. The misguidance others preach will fall right off of us and the truth will burn into our hearts. We will clearly know right from wrong and embrace the truth instead of being taken away with a lie. From our humility we won’t condemn those who speak a false truth or negate the truth either, but focus on their beauty while praying for them. We know God doesn’t focus on our sinfulness, if He did He would despise us, but God loves us and despite our great wretchedness, patiently bears with us, looking at our potential with great hope of our return as He constantly helps us to get there. This is how we must treat all imperfect souls too.
As you can read, praying humbly and correctly isn’t had at all, it is simply changing our minds and pretending like we are little children again who wants to be with their Father…becoming all vulnerable needing love, willing to learn and needing to be protected and taught by our perfect Daddy in Heaven trusting completely in Him to bring us to the faith we need to be saved.
“Contemplative prayer is the simplest expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gift, a grace; it can be accepted only in humility and poverty. Contemplative prayer is a covenant relationship established by God within our hearts. Contemplative prayer is a communion in which the Holy Trinity conforms man, the image of God, “to his likeness” (Catechism of the Catholic Church)#2713
Growing in Our Life of Prayer
There are three steps in spiritual growth but most of us sadly haven’t even ventured onto the first step, that of purgation of sin…removal of sin. Many think, “oh, I hardly sin” so I don’t need to worry about removing sin. But that isn’t what purgation of sin really means. Sure it means the removal of sin, but not just the “big sins,” but removing our entire desire for sin…any sin. It means to bring us to a true and honest resolve to sin no more–to a desire to become the most perfect saint, not in word alone, but in all of our actions as we grow in faith to live our lives for God working hard in every moment to do all for God’s glory by only seeking Him and His will as we accept His grace and strive to literally sin no more so we can hopefully not have any desire for even the slightest sin–have true faith (true contrition)–at least at the end of our life. Sadly, most don’t do this. But God is waiting for us, wanting to show us the Way. He has much help for us from His Word, to His Church and His saints, if we want it.
St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote wonderful spiritual exercises to help us grow in holiness and part of his exercises are directed to help us bring about true contrition by the way of purgation of sin. St. Alphonosus has meditations too which serve the same purpose, and are very good too. But some of us find St. Alphonosus’ work hard to read and many are misinterpreting St. Ignatius’ exercises and are not fully benefiting from them either, if benefiting at all. Fortunately, St. Anthony Mary Claret saw this problem and wrote the book “The Golden Key to Heaven” to help us understand St. Ignatuis spiritual exercises correctly so we can benefit from them. “The Golden Key to Heaven” is wonderful. I highly recommend St. Anthony Mary Claret’s spiritual exercises as they are taken from St. Ignatius work, and they are greatly easier to understand. Now, the problem some have with St. Anthony Mary Claret’s meditations is that they are designed to take an hour to perform each day and especially in today’s life, most of us simply either can’t or don’t have the time to add an additional hour of prayer to all of our days. Therefore, Lifting Our Values, has written a similar book–with the same purpose–on how to correctly pursue obtaining and maintaining perfect contrition, but it is done by adding 5 – 10 mins. a day of meditative prayer and then building upon that.
After we feel we might have gained a disdain for sin so great that we honestly would rather die a 1000 agonizing deaths than commit the slightest sin against God, we can move forward in our spiritual growth to the illuminative step which will help give us knowledge on how to find the Way to Eternal Life and then gain the wisdom necessary to know what to do with our knowledge so we can advance to the final unitive step towards perfect unity with God…Wonderful! Of course as we grow in our contrition (even before we reach the illuminative step), we will begin to gain correct knowledge of the Way but with out the wisdom that comes for great fear of the Lord, we simply won’t know correctly what to do (what step to take first, then next, etc.) or have the strength from God’s grace to live it.
But we absolutely must understand, it doesn’t matter if we have been faithful and praying for our entire life, if we still haven’t walked towards the purgation step in our faith (gaining at least some honest working desire to stop sinning–some fear of the Lord) and then succeeded in climbing it (gain a true disdain for sin), nothing we do will advance us towards a saving faith for we will still lack the wisdom and strength to get there. We must have a firm, honest resolve to sin no more from wonderful fear of the Lord, to even begin to find the Way to Eternal Bliss with Christ.