How Do We Pray?

St. Paul said that we do not know how to pray, but the Spirit prays within us.  (Romans 8:26) This is the key to understanding the real meaning of Christian prayer.

It suggests that we learn to pray not by trying to pray, but by giving up, or letting go, of our trying. And instead, learning to be.

This opens access to the deeper prayer of the heart where we can find the ‘love of God flooding our inmost heart through the Holy Spirit he has given us” (Romans 6:5) This is pure experience, beyond thought, dogma and imagination.

The important question is:  How can we open our whole self to this pure experience of love in our “inmost being”?

First, let’s look at the three essential elements of contemplation again.  The answer to the question: How do we pray?  We pray by becoming silent, still and simple.

We need silence for our physical health as well as our spiritual growth. With television, personal stereos, and the traffic noise in modern cities, silence is becoming more and more difficult to experience.

But the real silence is interior.  In fact, even if we are in a very noisy place, we can become silent if we are concentrated, which means at one with our own center.

We learn to be silent buy paying attention. Attention brings the center of our being to full consciousness.  It brings us from the past and the future into the present which is gentle and restful.

Silence is truthful. It is healing. It pacifies our inner turmoil.  It is the cure for destructive anger, anxiety and bitterness.

In silence we learn the universal language of the Spirit. God speaks the creative word out of a boundless silence which pervades all we think and do.

Without the capacity to be silent, we are unable to listen to another person.  In its essence, silence is nothing less than worship in sprit and truth.

So it is not just the absence of noise.  Silence is a whole attitude of being, of relating and openness to the mutual knowing and inter-being which is love.

One of the Psalms says: “Bet still and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10) Stillness does not mean a state of inertia or death.  To know God is to be fully alive.

Stillness is the balance of all the many forces and energies that make up a person-physical, mental and spiritual.

As with silence, stillness has both an exterior and an interior dimension. Stillness has nothing to do with the holding in, the blocking or the repression of movement or action. 

In prayer we need to come to physical stillness. This is the first step of the inner journey to God at the center of our being.

In fact, simply learning to sit still is a great step forward on any spiritual path.  For many it is the first lesson in going beyond desire-the urge to scratch or fidget. 

Our physical restlessness reflects not only bodily stress and tension, but also mental anxiety and distractedness.

Physical stillness has a direct effect upon the silence of our mind and so helps immensely to bring body, mind and spirit into harmony.

Christian prayer is awakening to the reality that we are at home now in the Kingdom of God. Jesus told us that the Kingdom of God is within us. ..”The Kingdom is not a place but an experience.” (John Main)  

Being simple is not easy.  We are constantly analyzing ourselves, our feelings our motives –or other peoples- and our constant self-consciousness makes us very complex and confused.

But God is simple – love is simple.  Meditation is simple. Being simple means being ourselves.  It means passing beyond self-consciousness, self-analysis and self-rejection.

Meditation is a universal spiritual practice which guides us into this state of prayer, into the prayer of Christ.  It brings us to silence, stillness and simplicity be a means that is itself silent still and simple.


We invite you to reflect on the above teaching as it relates to the spiritual principles of recovery and in particular to  Step 11 – “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”         


Alcoholics Anonymous – How It Works, p.64 
Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered some of its common manifestations.  “Resentment” is the number one offender. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick.  When the spiritual malady is overcome we straighten out mentally and physically.

Alcoholics Anonymous – Foreword to Fourth Edition, p.xxiv  
Modem-to-modem or face-to-face, A.A.’s speak the language of the heart in all its power and simplicity.

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