A frustration I hear a lot from my friends and blog readers is that people can’t seem to get deeper into their prayer lives. When pressed for reasons, most commonly cited is lack of time or energy and focus, but in reality, fear of intimacy with Christ may actually be at the root of this problem.
Did you know there are actually NINE stages of prayer? Yes, NINE! And liturgical prayer, along with our other written or spoken prayers, private or public, is only the first level! By the seventh level, the saints would sometimes fall into ecstasies. Many of us feel that this kind of prayer life is simply out of reach for us. We give up on the idea before we even begin, seeing ourselves as somehow unworthy. Perhaps, too, we fear surrendering and laying open that much of ourselves to God. But He knows every inch and thought and hair of us anyway, does He not?
The biggest hurdle for most people is getting past level four, which involves the “prayer of simple gaze.” A full, silent, meditating and concentrated attentiveness to God and the truths of the Faith requires vulnerability and purification, and often no immediate consolation from the Holy Spirit!
The good news, the “Gospel” of this process, is that Jesus is there, at the other side of that dark night, to initiate the next level of prayer, infused contemplation. This yields a sweetness and delight that will be positively addictive to any Catholic soul! Think of it as a foretaste of the Beatific Vision. What could be more desirable on earth than this? And certainly, my friends, nothing to fear.