The Secret of Prayer (Part One)

by John Connelly

Today I am praying in my room.
It is a gift. A gift more valuable than
all the treasures this world has to offer.
Prayer has led me to the Kingdom of God.
A kingdom infinitely vast and wide.
A kingdom of truth, communion, and love.

I am deeply aware that God is love.
God is all I am really longing for.
God is the answer.
God is the reason.
God is the One I seek and find.
I am also aware that my prayer reaches
beyond all boundaries. It encompasses
all the world because it is united with the
Heart of Jesus.

My friend. My brother, my sister.
Have you found true prayer?
Is prayer at the center of your life?
Have you truly found the inner rest that Jesus
speaks of…?
Come to me all you who labor and are
burdened and I will GIVE YOU REST.
  (Mt. 11:28)

Prayer is a quest. It is the Great Adventure.
It is freedom and rest in the infinite love of God.
Prayer can transform everything. Prayer changes the
world by changing us.

So let us journey together. Let us walk beyond the superficial and go to the living well that never
runs dry.

It was in my early twenties when I first found God in prayer.
It began in a small cabin in the mountains of northern California.
I read a book that unfolded St. Paul’s call to us
in Holy Scripture... “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thes.5:17)
The book intrigued and challenged me.
I realize now that God was calling me to a deep
life of prayer.

So I took the challenge. I prayed without ceasing.
I called on the Holy Name of Jesus over and over.
I was ignorant and blind- but I was sincere.
Jesus revealed himself to me.
Heaven was now an open door.
The old became new.
I prayed and prayed and prayed again.
My one quest was to “pray without ceasing.”

The words of St. John Chrysostom became
real in my own experience…

“He who finds the door of the heart…finds paradise.”

(St. John Chrysostom was an extraordinary preacher
and teacher who understood the profound need we
all have for a deep life of ceaseless prayer.)

Let me say this loud and clear.
This Door of the Heart can be found!
-It is the heart of Jesus living in you and me.
-It is a taste of paradise.
-It is the fruit of ceaseless prayer.
-It is the fulfillment of the words of Jesus…
“The Kingdom of God in in your midst.”

So what is the secret?
How can you and I experience God deeply in our busy and confusing lives?

Let us begin by praying together and asking the Holy Spirit to guide us on the path…
Heavenly King, Consoler Spirit, Spirit of truth,
present everywhere and filling all things, treasure
of all good and source of all life, come and dwell
in us, cleanse us and save us, you who are All-Good.

-(quoted from the Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2671)

The first thing we must do is realize that our call
is to ceaseless prayer. In a certain sense it is
‘all or nothing.’  God wants all of us. And learning
the way of deep prayer is a quest that must engage
our entire life.
The Saints of old called this “contemplative prayer.”
(It is not to be mistaken for the superficial techniques
that many are teaching and promulgating today.)
Real contemplative prayer is a single-hearted quest
for God. It is rooted in intimate communion with Jesus.

One does not undertake contemplative prayer only when one has the time: one makes the time for the Lord, with the firm determination not to give up,
no matter what trials and dryness one may encounter.

(quoted from the Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2710)

In all the years I have been praying it is not always easy. But I have never given up.  And I would not trade contemplative prayer for anything. It leads me beyond the delusions of this present world into
the reality of the Kingdom of God.

Now let me show you something very simple.
Something that can lead you to the depths of God.
It is rooted in the bible and rooted in the experience
of praying Christians since the early Church.
Perhaps you already know this truth but you need to
‘relearn’ it in your daily experience.

The simplest, most powerful prayer is the Holy Name
of Jesus Christ.

This is why the Bible says…
“All who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
  (Acts 2:21)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us
a concise understanding of this life-transforming truth.
This is a summary of what many great saints have
taught and practiced throughout the ages…

The name “Jesus” contains all: God and man and the whole
economy of creation and salvation. To pray “Jesus” is to
invoke him and call him within us. His name is the only one that
contains the presence it signifies. Jesus is the Risen One,
and whoever invokes the name of Jesus is welcoming the
Son of God who loved him and gave himself up for him.”

(quoted from the Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2666)

Let the truth contained in these few words soak into your
inmost being. They are good news for all who want to
experience Jesus and grow in a life of prayer.

The name Jesus actually contains the living presence
of God.  Think about that.
When we pray his holy name without ceasing it
leads us to His Heart. It transforms us from within.
It transforms our life and our world.

This type of prayer is often called “the Jesus prayer.”
It is the heritage of all of Christianity.
The name of Jesus is prayed by Christians
from all backgrounds. All those who seek will find.

This morning I simply prayed…
“Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us all.”
I prayed it over and over until I found
the Door of the Heart. When the door opened there
was Jesus. The Ever-Present One. My God and my
All. The One who gives rest to my soul.

So what are we waiting for?
Ceaseless prayer is available to all.
It connects us to the Living God.
It is the secret of ongoing renewal, deep rest
in God, and the true freedom we long for.
But we must be determined to persevere for
the rest of our lives!

The invocation of the holy name of Jesus is the simplest
way of praying always.

(quoted from the Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2668)

So my challenge to you is this…
Pray without ceasing.
Pray the Holy Name of Jesus
with every breath.
Enter the Door of Christ’s Heart in you…
and be transformed.
And when you fail…begin again with
childlike faith, hope, and love.

I offer this writing with a prayer for each of you…

May the living flame of authentic prayer
renew all our lives.

I will right more on prayer in future blogs.

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6 Responses to The Secret of Prayer (Part One)

  1. Janet Kormish says:

    Dear John: Thank you for always inspiring me to go deeper in prayer, and perseverance. Please pray for the Grief to Grace retreat which takes place at Seton House Nov. 15th to 18th. You probably know this program is for healing from sexual, physical, emotional abuse and/or neglect. There are ten participants that will be taking this healing journey. Please pray for them and for the team who serve so faithfully at these retreats. It is not easy work!! Those on team at this retreat are Terry Dunn, counselor; Dianne Beamish, counselor; Bernice Weber, Louise Myshak, Christine Kishor, and Father Louie Jiminez. Grief to Grace was founded and developed by the same person who founded Rachel’s Vineyard for healing from abortion. Both programs use many living scriptures and exercises around the scriptures. Let us pray for Dr. Theresa Burke, who founded these programs, as she has been under tremendous persecution and has had severe health issues this past year and a half. You met her at Rosemary Heights in 2008.

    Blessings and Peace to you and your family,
    Janet

  2. Maria McManus says:

    Good Evening John – Yes, praying without ceasing – when I read the “Power of Praise” books by Merlin Carruthers, he used this Scripture. I don’t know if I prayer without ceasing, but sometimes I wake up in the night, singing, praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, the Rosary, my prayer language, I then marvel how the Lord has me praying in my sleep so it seems. I do ask, beg each day, that every breath of my body would praise and give Him thanks and every beat of my heart would speaks words of love to Him. What I do know is I really don’t know how to pray (as the Catechism states we are beggars before God), yet in five simple prayers I learned from a course (based on the Catechism) on Prayer from Dr. Tom Curran: Lord I groan at my poverty for I do not know how to pray, Lord conquer all and everything thing within me that resists you, Lord I entrust to You (I give Him my list), Lord shock me with Your generosity, overwhelm me with Your gift that I may cry relent I am overflowing in Your grace, and Lord keep me awake, alert, watchful for the people, situations and circumstances You want me to pray, though inconvenient, unexpected or I am unprepared, Thank you Lord for teaching me to pray – truly He is shocking me with His generosity, truly He is teaching me to pray, truly He is awakening me to those who need prayer! Our world will only be transformed through prayer because prayer transforms me first!
    Blessings
    Maria McManus

  3. Maureen Stankievech says:

    I Thank God for all the wisdom he has lavished upon you and what a wonderful way you have of writing it down and sharing with us.blessings in abundance

  4. basilburns says:

    I was considering doing a number of things before bed this evening, but after this post, I think it’s obvious what I’ll be doing–prayer. Thank you.

  5. Maria Gonzalez says:

    John; I can’t tell you how much prayer has become a joy for me, and I’d like to share with you that we recently were praying for a dear priest in our diocese (Fr. Gerald) whose sister had been taken by rebels in Uganda. He went back to try to help get her back and without going into too much detail she & whole group was released. It was a complete miracle. As I prayed the rosary one morning(after) I sensed Our Blessed Mother telling me “They were saved by the Hand of God”. He had the whole diocese praying for him! I didn’t stop praying . I have never prayed unceasingly as I did then. And I agree with you, we are to pray UNCEASINGLY. Now I want to pray non-stop & when I can’t because I’m working or with people or sleeping I offer Our Lady my breathing & heartbeat as prayers. God showed me through this incident that I must pray with that deep desire that I did for them always. How wonderful is Our God that Great as He Is He chooses to Listen to our prayers!!! Praise His Holy Name, Thank-you for your work John! God Bless you & your family! Maite

  6. Bernadette says:

    Thank You for your inspiration- I thank God that He gives you such revelation in such beauty and simplicity. It is not easy for us to make time for prayer in our busy lives ,yet it is precisely because of that that we MUST continue and pray always and everywhere.You have reminded us of the simplest, yet most powerful, of prayers; calling upon the name of JESUS -by doing this may we remain always In His Presence.
    GodBless Bernadette

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