Means of Contemplation: What is Prayer

(This post continues exploring Augustine’s view of contemplation and spiritual development. To begin the series, read Toward the Contemplative Soul.)

Prayer is paramount in the Christian walk.

It is “absolutely vital to pray for understanding…’God gives wisdom, and from His face there is a knowledge and understanding.’ (Proverbs 2.6)”[1] Augustine, philosopher and Christian theologian (354-430 A.D.), beckoned man to a fervent love of God. Our natural response to such a love is intimate prayer and the constant seeking of Him. The human soul most needs the “fixation of the gaze of the soul upon the Truth.”[2]

Role of the Holy Spirit

Prayer opens the heart to respond to God and to receive the Holy Spirit through whom love is diffused in one’s heart. One enters into prayer by a faith and dependence that works through love. Man must prayerfully enter into seeking God’s presence. God’s grace alone leads to such regeneration.

Augustine admonished Christians to persevere in prayer at all times. In his chapter on prayer in The Rule, he recommended praying through the Psalms and the church hymns, and to “think over in your hearts the words that come from your lips.”[3]

The whole of his book Confessions is a prayer. It reveals critical components of adoration of God, including reverence and confession. “So by confessing our own miserable state and acknowledging your mercy towards us we open our hearts to you, so that you may free us wholly…”[4]

Toward the Contemplative Soul…

Prayer is a dialogue of the heart. “If you do not want to interrupt prayer do not cut off desire, which is a continuous voice of your soul,” observe Friends of Augustine. Pray first for the desire to read Scripture and to seek God. Ask God for the humility to allow Christ to open your heart to the truth in the Word.

Now … open the dialogue! Many models of prayer exist. Augustine used the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) for the basis of his work, Faith, Hope and Charity. “What is there that takes less time to hear or to read? What can be more easily committed to memory?”[5] It can serve the present-day believer in his or her own spiritual journey as well.

Augustine’s Confessions is a compilation of prayer, confession, and reflection. The first section of each book in Confessions record particularly heart-felt prayers. Pray through the Psalms. Pray through classic musical masterpieces … borrow a hymnal from your church or read hymns online. Consider also following Augustine’s example and record your prayers in a spiritual journal.

Partnering to pray with another believer will help the spiritual growth of both believers. Meet weekly (in person or by phone) for prayer and for accountability. Great blessings await those who gather in the name of the Lord.

Pick one way to seek God in prayer this week. Know that it is not the “method” that is important. Nothing to master. It’s the conversation with the Lord that remains the focus.

May your love for the Lord ever increase as you dwell in His presence!

<<Previous post in the Contemplation Series  **  Means to Contemplation: Decision of Faith

Next post in the series… Means to Contemplation: Exercise the Mind>>

Notes

Back to Post 1 Saint Augustine, On Christian Teaching, trans. R.P.H. Green (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 3.37.
Back to Post 2 Vernon J. Bourke, Augustine’s Quest of Wisdom (Wisconsin: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1945), p. 102.
Back to Post 3 Saint Augustine, The Rule of St. Augustine, )Brothers of the Order of Hermits of Satin Augustine, 1976, accessed 20 November 1998, available from http://www.geocities.com/Athens/1534/rleaub.html, Chapter 2.
Back to Post 4 Saint Augustine. Confessions, trans., R.S. Pine-Coffin (Oxford: Penguin Books, 1984), 7.17.

Back to Post 5 Augustine, Faith, Hope and Charity, trans. Louis A. Arand, Vol. 3, Ancient Christian Writers (New York: Newman Press), 2.7.

photo credit: Will Foster via photopin cc 

Posted by Sharon R. Hoover
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About Sharon R Hoover

Serving the church for over twenty years in discipleship and mission ministries, I've walked alongside many people travelling and exploring the journey of faith. Add in my own crazy path and I hope my writing will offer glimpses of life worth sharing.
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4 Responses to Means of Contemplation: What is Prayer

  1. Pingback: Road to a Contemplative Soul | a Journal of Missional Living

  2. Pingback: Means of Contemplation: Purify the Soul | a Journal of Missional Living

  3. Pingback: Means of Contemplation: Exercise the Mind | Journal of Missional Living

  4. Pingback: Means of Contemplation: Decision of Faith | Journal of Missional Living

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