What is prayer? Prayer is communicating with God. It takes on different forms, but accurs when man talks with God. Prayer comes from the heart, but is not just talking, but is also listening as well. Prayer is important. A relationship can’t live if there is not communication. It is more than dumping your wish list of requests at God’s feet and seeing if he will or wont. It is talking to God, and listening for his answer. Meditating on his word and contemplating the meaning of his word and the questions and feelings you have. Feel free to discuss them with him. Those who seek will find, those who ask will receive, those who knock it will be opened for them. When we speak out loud we are opening our hearts that opens our emotions and lowers our mental and spiritual walls and allows God in to work on our inner most being. It allows us to feel fully and openly. And allows us to grow spiritually closer to our God.
It is said “Much avails from the prayers of the righteous.”
There is no approved posture for praying. It has become common to kneel as a sign of respect, but it is not strictly this way. In the Bible there are references to people sitting, standing, bowing down, falling on there face, spreading their hands out and lifting their hands above them. What is important is that you humble your heart before God. It is said he exalts the humble but, brings the prideful low. God wont work in your life if you are someone who is full of pride and believe they are better than others. We are all sinners after all. Before you begin praying calm your mind and focus on what you feel. Take a deep breath and remember that God is God and how powerful he is and let whatever your say flow from the heart. But before we can walk we must learn to crawl. We must first learn the first stages of prayer before we can mature as Christians.
These are the first forms of prayer to master.
Vocal Prayer The spoken prayers. Where we speak our prayers out loud. We are usually taught this early on as children. Maybe saying grace, or at bedtimes. “Now i lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep” This is the most common known prayers. Many people turn this into a list of wants or bartering system. I will do this if you give me this. We need to remember that God is not a genie to grant wishes. It is alright to ask for what we want, but remember that God has a plan for our lives and we shouldn’t focus on all our wants in the world. We do this form of prayer first and usually do this all our lives. As our faith grows deeper and matures we move on to deeper forms of prayer. But first we learn to focus our minds on God and form our prayers. That is what we want to say and we say it. Just like talking. Anyone can say prayers out loud. They do need to be formed which involves attention and devotion. It needs to come from the heart and be honest and truth. Nothing can be hidden from God so no point in trying to lie. We need to be aware of what we are saying and saying it out of love.
Meditation When we meditate, we focus on God’s word or some part of his divine aspect. We try to think, What would God think about this matter or that matter. Or what is the deeper meaning of this verse or parable. Or one of the mysteries of God. It is primarily an act of intellect, and will of focus. We think about the supernatural matter and ponder what it means. Close your eyes and clear your mind and let the image of Jesus fill your mind. Clear out the days clutter. Push everything else out and think only of God and his love. Start small. You don’t even have to try to get answers at first just allow yourself to feel God’s love and your love for him. Just hold it in your mind and find God’s rest. There is plenty of stress in the world, but not much rest. God promises inner peace and strength. This is a way to find it. We apply the truth to our spiritual life. and We resolve practical ways to make the application of this truth in our physical lives. If a person meditates daily, in a short period of time he will either stop committing serious sin or will stop mediating. Meditation is fruitful at any level of prayer. It should be how you start your day with God.
Affective Prayer Similar to meditation, but different. In this form of prayer your will begins to take hold. This is where you begin to find habitual sin in your life and root it out. The soul receives consolations lead one to make acts of love towards the Lord. When making a resolution at the beginning of the year, one simply says that he will do such and such and then makes an effort to stick with it. However, in affective prayer, the will makes a certain resolution, aided by grace, which leads the person to make a true change in his life. At this point you should be looking within yourself to see where you lack in your spiritual walk. Rooting out any habitual sins and seeking to purge yourself of them.
This is also called “prayer of simplicity” or “simple gaze” is the simple loving gaze upon the divine object. In it, we use our faculties to focus on our Lord, not using our intellect or imagination or emotion. It is a simple gaze of the will.
Acquired recollection demands the greatest recollection and requires us to master our faculties of intellect and will. This is so that we can be completely focused on the Lord and be still within.
Find a sort of inner peace. This kind of prayer is not one that should be forced. It is a settling within and letting God’s will flow into our own.
Once this kind of prayer has been fully developed you may encounter what Catholics refer to as the Dark Night of the Senses. it involves a prolonged series of aridities in which the soul experiences dryness in prayer. It is a painful state that tests the soul to see if it desires prayer for the consolations or because it desires God Himself. At this stage, the ability to meditate becomes difficult, even painful, as no fruit comes from it and the Holy Spirit wants to move the soul from meditation to contemplation.
It is necessary so that the soul can mature. Can grow closer to God and desire God more. Our soul needs to be purged of defects that still exist within it, defects which prevent the soul from being passively receptive to God’s grace. As a seed sprouts and struggles to push up through the ground towards the warmth of the sun, so does our soul need to seek God even to struggle to push through this rough time and seek God’s nourishment. This struggle brings growth. What are some of these defects? There are three primary ones:
(a) Spiritual Gluttony: the soul has an inordinate attachment to consolations and begins to see them as ends, not means to the end.
(b) Spiritual Sloth: a laziness which creeps into the soul in which it does not strive for perfection anymore but is content with mediocrity in the spiritual life.
(c) Spiritual Pride: Since at this stage one is truly advancing in virtue, it is easy to become spiritually proud and to look down on others. But of course pride is the worst of sins and keeps one away from God.
This stage too is a spiritually dangerous one, perhaps the most dangerous of them all. Up to this Dark Night the soul has advanced in virtue, holiness and prayer. Yet at this stage it appears that one is backsliding: consolations disappear, temptations become greater and meditation dries up. So a person might flee from the Dark Night and regress into lower levels of prayer. The proper response to this temptation to regress, however, is renewing your trust in God, continuing to utilize acquired recollection in prayer, abstaining from seeking consolation, and seeking counsel from a good spiritual director.
This covers the first stages of Prayer. Thanks to Eric Sammson. I will continue my study of prayer and post more on it and the next stages of prayer.
When we move into deeper levels of prayer we have moved from prayer that is initiated by man to prayer initiated by God. We have moved from meditation to contemplation. Also with the beginning levels of prayer, it is a warm safe relationship with God. It is simple. You put your faith in him and you can dump all your cares and concerns on him and expect him to take care of it. It is an immature relationship. Many never get past that level of relationship. They want to stay in that safe place and many miss out on a deeper level, because it is not always warm and safe. They pray behind closed doors and then go about their lives and don’t put their faith into action. You will never get deeper in your prayer life if you don’t make it active in the rest of your life. It also takes more work on our part. We have to seek his will in every area of our life. We have to carry that relationship out into the world where it may not always seem so certain and warm. Not always so safe to get there.
Sometimes referred to as seeking level. We would already be studying God’s word, this is the his standards, but we should now thirst more for understanding and knowledge of God. We should be seeking him more now.
What is infused contemplation? It is the experiential knowledge of God that is infused into the soul by God. In other words, it is the invasion of the soul by the supernatural. In this stage, the soul is permeated and penetrated by Someone else. You should feel God’s presence more in life and your thoughts should naturally turn to him in everyday life. There will be confusion about what is right. The right choices are not always easy and not always evident. You may read God’s word and it says this, but in life it may seem like that is not the right choice. You have to seek Gods will and make it evident in your life. Sometimes this is not always easy. You have to learn to be comfortable with your mistakes. Accept them and commit to doing better. Hopes will rise and fall, but you have to resolve to go forward. Sometimes you will follow a path that ends with a dead end. Many can become discouraged by this and leave this level of prayer. A dead end sometimes is only a learning experience. You have to take out all the bad sinful habits in our lives. Seek God’s will and let him show you any area of sin in your life and get rid of it. Also, the soul who reaches this level of prayer does not discontinue the practice of virtue or charity; in fact, it usually will intensify.
Prayer of Quiet
This level is another form or a deeper form of infused contemplation, but it includes a special captivating of the will. This level of prayer brings spiritual delight, as the soul is absorbed in contemplating the presence of God. The benefits of this level of prayer is that often it can be experienced while the intellect is otherwise occupied. For example, the farmer tending his garden can experience the prayer of quiet during his gardening. While your hands do the work other parts of your brain are free to think deeper thoughts and contemplate deeper things.
Also consider this verse. It is mentioned in Romans 8:26, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that we cannot express . . . he intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”
Here we can communicate more from the spirit. Where words are not needed to seek God. The Holy spirit is indwelling in us and our spirit can groan to him and everything is understood. Even if we don’t completely understand exactly how we feel.
HINDRANCES TO EFFECTIVE PRAYER
A quick list.
Listed here are some scriptures of things that will come between you and God that will make your prayers less effective.
-Sin of any kind: Isaiah 59:1-2; Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 1:15; Proverbs 28:9 God doesn’t like sin. It takes away from our holiness. Any sin will hinder the effectiveness of prayer.
-Idols in the heart: Ezekiel 14:1-3 Putting anything first in your life other than God is an idol.
-An unforgiving spirit: Mark 11:25; Matthew 5:23 God forgives those who forgives others. It is said, Forgive those who have sinned against” you so that your father in heaven will likewise for give you.
-Selfishness, wrong motives: Proverbs 21:13; James 4:3
-Power hungry, manipulative prayers: James 4:2-3
-Wrong treatment of marriage partner: I Peter 3:7
-Self-righteousness: Luke 18:10-14
-Unbelief: James 1:6-7
-Not abiding in Christ and His Word: John 15:7
-Lack of compassion: Proverbs 21:13
-Hypocrisy, pride, meaningless repetition: Matthew 6:5; Job 35:12-13
-Not asking according to the will of God: James 4:2-3
-Not asking in Jesus’ name: John 16:24-41
-Satanic demonic hindrances: Daniel 10:10-13; Ephesians 6:12
-Not seeking first the Kingdom: Only when you seek first the Kingdom are you promised the “other things”: Matthew 6:33
-When you do not know how to pray as you should, prayer is hindered. This is why it is important to let the Holy Spirit pray through you: Romans 8:26
Final Levels of Prayer
Moving from the deeper prayer to the final levels of prayer, It is said there is another dark time for further maturing. The dark night of the soul. At this stage, even infused contemplation is not possible; every faculty of the soul experiences dryness. But God reveals Himself in this darkness, and it leads to total union with Him. To be filled fully with the Holy Spirit. Your will and thoughts are in tune with God’s will. Where God is actively working and moving through you. This is the closest we can come to God here on the Earth.
But why is this necessary? Like the first Dark Night, it purges the soul of defects. One might be tempted to think that a soul at this advanced stage of prayer has no real defects, but this is not the case. A few of the defects the Dark Night of the Soul purges include:
(a) Involuntary distractions in prayer. At this stage one can still encounter the inability of the intellect and will to keep focus.
(b) Dullness in prayer. As one grows accustomed to infused contemplation, he can begin to lack full sensitivity to spiritual things. It is a type of spiritual sloth.
(c) Temptation to over-zealousness instead of charity. It is very easy at this stage to desire the same joys for our brothers and sisters in Christ that we overwhelm them in trying to help them. Instead of relying on God to move them forward, we try to force them along.
During this Dark Night of the Soul, the person experiences the final purification of the will. Any egotism, either conscious or unconscious, is replaced by a complete acceptance to the will of God. And that is the point of this stage: to unite one’s will completely with God’s will, so that the soul wants nothing other than what God wants. from Eric Sammons.
After this you can move on to the Unitive prayer. Where you are in complete union with the Holy Spirit. It’s presence is active within you and works through you.
Simple Union During the prayer of simple union, all internal faculties, including the intellect and the will, are gradually captivated and occupied with God. What is not captivated? Only the external bodily senses.
Conforming Union This is also called “spiritual betrothal,” where both the internal and external senses are absorbed in the presence of the divine. At this stage, the person is in “ecstasy” where their body no longer responds to outside stimuli and is completely captivated by God.
Transforming Union If Level 8 is “spiritual betrothal,” then Level 9 is “spiritual marriage.” Conforming union involved the consent of the will to union, but transforming union is the union itself. The soul and God are so united at this stage that they cannot be separated.
There is not much said about these levels. Those who have experienced it have sometimes said to feel electricity moving through them. Or total peace. The experience is totally indescribable and must be experienced to understand.
Our Model Prayer.
Our Father who is in Heaven, Hollowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, they will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven, give us this our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thy kingdom, they power, they glory amen.
With our father who is in heaven we acknowledge God as our father and as holy. In prayer we should never forget to acknowledge his might and authority. We are to always humble our self before him.
With hollowed be they name and they kingdom come we are praising him recognizing his kingship. He is our ruler and king. We are to always remember to praise him and tell him how worthy he is to be praised.
With thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, we acknowledge that his will is best. He knows all our needs and what is best for us and everyone. We ask his will to be done in every situation and that he is ruler both in our lives on Earth and ruler in Heaven.
With give us this our daily bread, we are asking for our needs to be met. He knows what we need and that we have need of food, clothing, shelter. With him as our God we can be sure that we will always have what we need and will never be in want of them.
With forgive us or trespasses and those who have trespassed against us, we are confessing ourselves as sinners and repenting, and we are forgiving others. We need to always be confessing our sins as we are not perfect and God is aware of that. We also need to be forgiving others who wrong us since they are not perfect either and it is God’s will that we do so. For we will be judged with the same measure we judge others. We should also ask God to help those we wrong to forgive us and pray for those in need.
With lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil, we are asking for God to support us and help us resist temptation, and to deliver us from any evil situations we wind up in either by our own efforts or just plain bad luck. Until Jesus returns, there will be crap we have to deal with and the world will not be perfect. They only way we will get through it is with God at our side.
So when we begin in prayer we become sons of God and Brothers to Jesus. We move forward as disciples and then as friends. Then on to betrothal and marriage to God. This is only my summary of it, but I think it is accurate. Each level has it’s own requirements to meet to move on from as well as it’s own level of commitment and responsibilities to perform. At each level we have responsibilities to God, but also God as responsibilities to us as well. His will of course be unfailing. When we become his sons he has taken us into his family and there for will never abandon us, but if we want God to be more active in our lives and to get the most benefit from his blessings we need to seek him earnestly and move forward to a higher level of relationship with him. He will be more active in our lives and will carry out more responsibility in our lives. The greater our commitment to him, the greater his commitment to us. There is a difference in relationship levels with the Lord. He will be close and intimate with us as we allow him to be. In our physical realm there is a difference between friendship and sonship, serventhood and stewardship. Kingship and the marriage relationship. You are more obligated to your spouse than you are to a friend. Each have their benefits and responsibilities. You may love your friends, but you live and abide with your spouse. The commitment to a spouse is far deeper than to a friend. It is more intimate and intense.
I would like to take a moment to mention something I read in a near death experience. I believe her name was Jan Price. She mentioned having a life review and her errors were erased from her spirit. Her feelings of guilt were cleaned up and she was put back into her body without them. This I found interesting. The Bible says that God removes our sins from us. And exorcists who have faced demons have stated that the demons always attack them using sins they know of, but they are unaware of confessed sins. In the spirit realm things work different. When you look at something you can see all about it and understand all about it. You perceive with other senses not like we use now. Demon can probably see this way when they look at us. They can see what we have done good or bad. It would seem to me like God removes our confessed sins. Not just forgives them, but removes them from our spirit. The things that would hinder our spiritual growth. This is of course just my speculation. Who can fully know all the ways God works except He himself.
Somebody said a prayer-Billy Ray Cyrus
When Mama Prayed-Randy Travis
How to pray when you’re pissed at God
I will need to look up who wrote this book, but it is good to read. It is important to talk to God about everything, even when you are pissed at him. He knows everything that is in our hearts, how we feel, what we think. So there is no point in holding it in or trying to hide it from him. He is a big boy and can handle it. He knows how we are hurting and understands. It is important to keep the line of communication open with him even when we don’t always feel like it. He can help us heal.