The prayer of Simplicity

Source: District of Asia

The prayer of simplicity thus brings with it a threefold simplification: first, that of reasoning or reflection; secondly that of the affections; and finally, something that should rather naturally follow: that of our life, which is really a result of this prayer rather than an element of it. In ordinary affective prayer there is some simplification of reasoning, but not of the affections; and as the affections of affective prayer become more simplified, this prayer verges more into simplified affective prayer or that of simplicity.

It is easy to see how this twofold simplification of reasoning and of the affections will bring a simplification of our entire life a consequence of this form of prayer, as was just said. We pursue our work, studies, and spiritual exercises in the presence of God and with the spirit of faith and love. Thus, as a result of this prayer, ours is a life of uninterrupted and continual recollection. Of course, when we say uninterrupted or continual, we are not speaking mathematically. We are rather referring to a frequent recurrence.

How are we to begin the practice of this prayer of simplicity? In keeping with the idea that God is our loving Father and the mightiest of all lovers, we must first of all be thoroughly convinced that God tenderly loves us and that He finds great pleasure and satisfaction, in our love of Him. Secondly we must exclude from our lives, by thorough conquest of the senses, mind, and heart, every affection which is not perfectly subordinated to the love of God and which cannot serve to nourish this love. In brief, through complete detachment from creatures we try to become wholly attached to God. Thirdly, we must put on Christ, God's model Son, by bringing ourselves to a complete conformity with His ideas, longings, conduct, and entire mode of living. The more we put on God's model Son, the Apple of His eye, the more He will love us.

Besides the foregoing, it is also necessary to make a deliberate attempt to live an intensive prayer-life. This prayer-life would include the following points:

a) A great fidelity to exercises of piety prescribed by rule: making them at the time and place and in the way prescribed, except in the rare cases of hindrance, dispensation, or other lawful excuse.

b) A similar fidelity, but without childish anxiety or a sense of compulsion, to exercises of supererogation chosen with the approval of the spiritual director or the superior. Whatever these exercises are, they should not be left to passing whims, but should be definitely marked out in a plan of life. This plan might contain such details as the following: the amount of time to be spent daily before the Blessed Sacrament; how this time is to be distributed; how daily recollection is to be linked up with morning prayer; whether or not a weekly Holy Hour is to be made, and so forth. One of the functions of these supererogatory exercises is to help us to perform our prescribed exercises better.

c) A frequent use of ejaculatory prayer. It may be preferable to use ejaculations of our own making, since this will insure greater spontaneity on our part as well as greater fervor, whereas other fixed ejaculations are apt to be recited in parrot-like fashion. These ejaculations should be said slowly and with relish. We can readily be deceived by large numbers here, although we might well aim at large numbers if we can recite our ejaculations with relish, slowly, and without strain.

d) Eager and instinctive recourse to God in all our difficulties whatever they are, as in the case of trials crossing our path, or on the occasion of faults of surprise and weakness. By this constant recourse to God we acquire a habit or disposition whereby in the presence of the least difficulty, suffering, obstacle, or unexpected consolation, we turn immediately by instinct to God, in an elan of prayer appropriate to the case at hand. This promptness is an indication of unbroken union of our soul with God. We resemble the little child who instinctively has recourse to its mother in any and all difficulties.

Familiarity with these four exercises, especially with the fourth, will surely bear fruit, even though it may be several years before we acquire the continuity of the prayer of simplicity. If, however, after noble efforts we do not reach this continuity, let us not be discouraged, since there are souls very holy and the object of God's special love who have similar difficulties. Among those who reach this degree of prayer in a certain measure, the majority arrive there but gradually, at the price of effort, or rather of the inner work of grace continued over a period of years. In this matter let us resign ourselves to God's Holy Will, believing that He will dispose all things sweetly.

Beyond simplified affective prayer we cannot advance with our own efforts, for the next step forward is into the realm of infused contemplative prayer. However, we ought to realize that the careful practice of this simplified affective prayer is the best disposition for and a stepping stone to infused prayer. Conceiving the higher phases of the prayer of simplicity as a bridge between acquired and infused mental prayer, let us march forward towards this bridge, resigning ourselves, however, to God's Holy Will, after we have done our part, to decide whether or not we are to arrive on the other side of it---the life of infused contemplation.