Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 3, 2000
The interior master of prayer
By JOHN CONNELLY
Special to the WCR
Do you want to deepen your life of prayer? There is within every Christian an interior master of Christian prayer - a guide, a counsellor, a friend to empower, strengthen and renew us in our daily lives.
This friend is the Holy Spirit. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "The Holy Spirit, whose anointing permeates our whole being, is the interior master of Christian prayer" (no. 2672).
St. Basil wrote these inspired words about the Spirit: "Through the Holy Spirit we are restored to paradise, led back to the kingdom of heaven, and adopted as children, given confidence to call God 'Father' and to share in Christ's grace, called children of light and given a share in eternal glory."
The Holy Spirit is an incredible, wonderful reality. The Holy Spirit lives in you and me. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you (1 Corinthians 6:19)?
This friend and teacher within us is dynamic, life-giving and infinite in power. He wants to renew and refresh us from within.
Jesus spoke of this interior renewal when he stood and proclaimed, "If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me as Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.' Now he said this about the Holy Spirit which those who believed in him were to receive" (John 7:37-39).
Jesus says those who believe in him produce rivers of living water. Rivers! Not a few drops. Not a slight trickle. Rivers of living water. The Holy Spirit's refreshing, transforming rivers are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22).
In many ways our modern world is like a spiritual desert. We need the life-giving streams of the Holy Spirit flowing from our hearts to a thirsty world. Pope John Paul says, "Receive the Holy Spirit and be strong in faith."
The Holy Spirit and prayer
St. Augustine said, "He knows how to live well who knows how to pray well." All great writers on prayer would agree that our prayer only becomes truly life-giving as we surrender in faith, hope and love to the Holy Spirit. St. Paul reminds us in Romans 8:26: "The Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words."
Imagine for a moment a car with no gas. If we want to go somewhere, what happens? We can pretend we are moving. We can dream we are moving. We can replace the transmission or the engine. The fact remains: No gas, no movement. The Holy Spirit is our "gas" in the spiritual life. We move forward in prayer when we surrender to his power in our lives.
St. Thomas Aquinas compared our spiritual life to a sailboat. Our job is to put up our sail and be receptive. The Holy Spirit is the wind who fills our sail and propels us forward.
Cardinal Mercier was a Church leader with a great devotion to the Holy Spirit. He wrote that devotion to the Holy Spirit is the "secret of sanctity." He taught people to quiet their heart and speak directly to the Holy Spirit within, surrendering everyday to his guidance and direction.
The Catechism says the Church "invites us to call upon the Holy Spirit everyday, especially at the beginning and the end of every important action" (no. 2670). A simple prayer of surrender I have used throughout the day is, "Spirit of Jesus . . . live this moment through me." Life is a true adventure when we are docile to the Holy Spirit.
It was Pentecost 1998, one of the largest gatherings in the history of the Church, when Pope John Paul prayed these words: "Today from this upper room in St. Peter's Square, a great prayer rises: Come, Holy Spirit, come and renew the face of the earth! Come with your seven gifts! Come Spirit of Life, Spirit of Communion and love. The Church and the world need you. Come, Holy Spirit, and make ever more fruitful the charisms you have bestowed on us."
May we enter the "new springtime" through daily surrender to the Holy Spirit, "the interior master of Christian prayer."