Friday, December 19, 2008
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever. Amen. Ipna’il Habib, Mina, May the grace of God our Father, the peace of Jesus and the love of the Holy Spirit always be in your heart. I greet you Habibi with much love and a holy embrace asking the Lord to always guide your heart and your way. I felt your yearning heart when you told me that you have been weak in prayer; and I have pondered on this and asked the Lord to guide my words so that the Holy Spirit may instruct you in this matter. So I ask you to be patient with me as I try to express what my experience has been. I waited to write to you because I know that you are overwhelmed with school and that a long letter from me would just overwhelm you even more; but this is clearly a subject that we need to explore. So I hope and pray that you read it with attention.
There are many forms of prayer. There is liturgical prayer, the type of prayer that is structured and read aloud. This prayer is the prayer of the Holy Church with which we lift up our hearts and souls expressed with the beauty of our Saintly Fathers and Patriarchs and Prophets. With this prayer we pray together as a community, and even though we may be praying alone, we are still praying in the Communion of the Saints as One body of Christ. There is also prayer that expresses praise. There is prayer that offers petitions. There is prayer that intercedes. There is prayer that asks for forgiveness and offers contrition. There is prayer that is a form of meditation. And there is contemplation. All of these are prayer. And what we must realize is that prayer cannot be reduced to a feeling or an emotion. Sometimes we feel the presence of the Holy Spirit during our prayer and it is so very sweet. But there will be times that we do not feel like praying and these are the times that we must work at prayer. For the enemy of the Lord does not want you to be close to God, thus trying to have his way. But do not be afraid Habibi, prayer comes from the heart and the will, and must be cultivated. Many of the Saints went through dry periods of prayer in which prayer was more work than consolation. Why do you think that our Fathers went off to the desert? They knew what they would encounter there. It was not going to be sweet consolation, but it was going to be doubt, temptation, and terrible fights with the enemy of God. Prayer is probably the greatest and hardest work of our father monks.
So why am I mentioning all of this? Just as I said before, so that you may not be afraid. God loves you so very much, Habibi! You are special in his eyes. If my heart longs to hear your voice every day, just imagine how much more our Father in heaven longs to hear your voice. Besides, you were called with a special calling, so I encourage you to walk in a manner worthy of that calling, trusting in the mercy of the Lord. Our prayer does not have to be a multiplication of words and lip service to the Lord. There are times when we will not find the words to pray. During these times, the Holy Spirit will pray within us, for the Lord knows every heart and knows our prayer even before words are uttered. The important thing is to be present to the Lord. Remember when the Lord called to Samuel (1 Samuel 3:1-10) when he was just a boy? Samuel’s response was simply, Here I am, Lord; speak, for you servant is listening. I think the Lord’s heart is overjoyed to get a simple text message from you as He would be to get a treatise. What would break his heart would be not to hear from you at all. Do you remember the song that you taught me to sing? The one where the little boy sings: “Every morning you will hear my voice, O Lord.” This is the prayer of our Father David! He told the Lord, Every day I will praise your Holy Name, seven times a day will I lift up my prayer to you. But the Holy Spirit admonishes us in scriptures to pray constantly! Prayer is not just words and talk. It is being present to the Lord and being constantly mindful of him. And it is listening to his holy heart.
So what do we do when we feel dry in prayer and do not feel like praying? Pray anyway! Soon consolation will return to you and the sweetness of the presence of the Holy Spirit will continue to fill you. Set aside the time to pray, especially in the mornings and in the evenings. Make it your firm resolve to be faithful in prayer, whether you feel like it or not. Sometimes a simple, meaningful and loving prostration before the Lord is enough. Sometimes we find ourselves pouring our hearts out to the Lord. And sometimes, we just do not have anything to say and must rely on liturgical and formal prayer. The key is to just pray! The Lord will visit you in his time.
Habibi, I really do not mean to overwhelm you with so many words and I tried to keep this message short as well as meaningful. Take heart and be not afraid. Trust the Lord to guide your path. Ponder on these words that I offer to you. I know that your time is short with school and all, and I am grateful that you have read these simple words of mine. As I have often reminded you that you are in my heart and in my constant prayers, I ask you to continue also to lift up your prayers for this unworthy soul of mine. I love you so much Ipna’il Habib, and as a father loves his son, so do I love you with a whole, pure, simple and sincere heart. God bless you always!
With a warm embrace and a holy kiss,
Your brother and father in Christ Jesus our Lord,
Juan David De Jesus