Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Powerful Physical Prayer

Nearly all of my prayer is mental, whether verbal (in my head or aloud) or centering. The act of quieting my mind in centering prayer is a very taxing mental activity, sometimes fraught with incredible frustration.

Today, I had an incredibly powerful, physical prayer session.

I stopped in for an hour or so at the Perpetual Adoration Chapel in the parish a mile from my house. I love this tiny little chapel. It is always a place of Peace. When I arrived, it was packed. All five seats were taken. I knelt before the Blessed Sacrament, and tried to still my mind and become aware of the Holy Presence. Instead, I wondered how long I would be able to stay with nowhere to sit. Should I stay on the kneeler? Go sit on the floor? Stand off to the side? It was definitely not one of my most prayerful moments in the Presence of our Lord.

Within five minutes, two people left, leaving one of the really comfy chairs open. I slipped into it, and took off my coat. Ok, now, I can focus on the Divine Presence. Oh, but the man behind me kept rustling papers. And the priest upstairs in the rectory kept walking around on the creaky floors. What am I doing here? Oh, yeah, Jesus. That's right. Focus, Jen. I tried reading from a devotional book I had brought with me, but couldn't concentrate on the words. Finally, I just closed my eyes and tried to imagine Jesus sitting here beside me in the chair.

Eventually, the chapel cleared out, leaving just me and one other person. I began to feel very strongly that I needed to get up out of this comfy chair and lay prostrate before the Lord. I felt uneasy. There was another person in the room. What would he think? Would I seem weird? But the feeling persisted, and I decided to just do it.

I stood up and walked a little behind this man, so as not to be in his peripheral vision. I knelt down on the floor and bowed my head down until it reached the floor. "My Lord and my God," I prayed. I wondered about the man. Did he see me? Did he know what I was doing? Was he thinking I was some sort of crazy nut? "My Lord and my God. Come on, Jen... you are not doing this for him. It's not about the guy in the other comfy chair. It's about Him... up there in the monstrance. My Lord and my God. My Lord and my God. My Lord and my God."

Eventually, I got caught up in the prayer. I stretched out into full prostrate position, and continued praying. My prayer ceased being mental, and was just this deep, incredible feeling of connection with the Divine, of being one, of no separation.

Time passed. I'm not sure how much. I became aware of my surroundings again. My thighs were cold from the pressure of the floor. I wondered whether my companion had even noticed my prayer posture. I got back into kneeling position and looked at the Blessed Sacrament, praying in words once again. In time, I felt compelled to return first to my kneeling bow and then to full prostrate.

This time, I prayed specific prayers... an Act of Contrition, the Fatima prayer... but pausing at the end of each phrase to personalize and add more specific petitions to the prayers. I was able to visualize the prayers, not as words, but as actions, as people, as places, as things. I began to pray for humility again. I had not prayed for that virtue since I'd had a really horrible, incredibly humiliating experience back in October. I've been too scared to go anywhere near praying for that virtue since. (Whoever said "watch what you pray for" had exactly that circumstance in mind!)

But today, I went back to that prayer. I asked the Lord to show me the way to humility, but to do so gently. I am fragile, Lord. I've been broken in so many places. I know I need humility, but I need to be led there gently. Please, help me get there... gently.

Finally, led by an inner peace I haven't felt in ... gosh, I don't even know when, I returned to kneeling, and just gazed at the Blessed Sacrament. I was filled.

A short time later, I stood up, put my coat and gloves on, and left, never giving my companion a second thought. My heart was too full to care what he may have thought.

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