Fr. Jacques Phillipe has some exceptional insights on our fallen nature in his short classic on Intimate Prayer, most importantly on why most of us never start or sustain mental prayer (I strongly prefer “Intimate Prayer” over mental prayer and will seek to use this phrase most often to help us better understand the reality of what God desires of us). Our first excuse is often, I simply do not have the time. Our next is….I am already praying two or more Rosaries a day, plus numerous other vocal prayers and spiritual reading, and I am involved in many ministries and works of mercy, how much more can one do? Our final excuse is that I really do not know how to pray intimately and mental prayer is for very holy people, not for me. All three of these excuses are just that…excuses…with no basis in fact. God desires and gives the Gift of intimate prayer to all who persevere. This is one of the most important truths of our Faith. The seed of this Grace was given to us in Baptism! The vast majority of people never learn and thus never start intimate prayer; and of the few who do learn and start, most fail to sustain their initial desire, and give it up or do it only sporadically. Those who persist become saints (one who achieves God’s will for that person, not necessarily a canonized saint).
With regard to not having enough time, Fr. Phillippe has one of the best responses you will ever encounter: have you ever heard of someone who died of starvation for not having enough time to eat? Well, intimate prayer is to our soul, what food and water are to our body. Therefore, we are starving our souls, but not our bodies! In fact, in America and the developed world, most of us feed our body way too much, but rarely feed our souls! Yet, we know as Catholics that our soul is what is eternal, what is most important to our eternity, destiny and joy. If we truly believe we must love God with all our heart, mind and soul, then we must engage in intimate prayer every day, just as we must eat every day and take water every day.
So, let us digest and ponder this powerful but simple truth: vocal prayer is good and necessary, but if this is all we ever do, we will never achieve the state of holiness which God so desires of us. God chooses to have such a need for our love that we in a sense “starve” Him, while we are starving our soul! Yes, God is so madly in love with us that we in effect withhold our love from Him by not learning and engaging in intimate prayer. Here is the best possible way of thinking about mental prayer: I want to return God’s Love for me by being so in love with Him that I relish just being with Him…in love with Him… for at least 15 minutes every day! Two people who are madly in love with each other always want…truly need…to just be with each other…to be in love with each other and to tell each other! This IS the best form of mental prayer and everyone, even the most simple and uneducated person, is capable of this! As we advance in the Gift, simply by persevering in the Grace of the daily encounter, we learn that words are not necessary and eventually God does the “work” of taking us deeper into His Love…to see and experience the infinite Love of God for all of us and for you especially! Let us commit this day and give this present to our Savior on His birthday! This is the best present we can give Him. May our Mother take us to the manger with our gift, as we place it into the blazing Flame of Love of her Immaculate Heart, so the gift will be perfected, as if she herself had given it to our sweet infant Savior!