ARCHBISHOP FULTON J. SHEEN’S MESSAGES – LENTEN SEASON (4)
 Prayer of the Heart. Words, ideas and devotions help us to pray, but they are not of themselves prayer. They are like the wheels of an airplane – vital to get us started and help us land, but not very useful when we’re soaring in flight. The heart of prayer is prayer of the heart, an outpouring of our spirit and the inpouring of God. The English preacher John Bunyan once said that in prayer better your heart be without words than your words be without heart. The Psalmist said, “Be still and know that I am God.” In all the centuries since that was written, no simpler or deeper advice has ever been given on prayer. If prayer were only talking, it would be easy. But prayer means keeping still for God, listening to God and learning His will.
 Casting ourselves on God. In prayer, we do not tell God our needs, for He knows those before we begin. Rather we give Him an opportunity to bestow them on us. Prayer is helplessness casting itself on Power, infirmity leaning on Strength and misery reaching to Mercy.
God has two kinds of gifts – those He gives us whether we pray or not and those He gives us on condition we put ourselves in His love. God may want to give us something but cannot, because our hands are full on tinsel. Many regard God as an aviator regards a parachute. They hope they never need Him, but if they do, He may come in handy.
Prayer does not change God’s will, but it may change ours, so that we become receptive to His blessings.
 Praying for God’s Will. The man who thinks only of himself says only prayers of petition; he who thinks of his neighbour says prayers of intercession; he who thinks only of loving and serving God says prayers of abandonment to God’s will, and this is the prayer of saints. The price of this prayer is too high for most people, for it demands the displacement of our ego.
Many want God to do their will; they bring their completed plans and ask Him to rubber-stamp them without a change. The petition of the “Our Father” is changed by them to read: “My will be done on earth.”
 Complaining to God. Let your wails be to God and not to man, asking not, “Why does God do this to me?” But ask, “Why, O God, dost Thou treat me so?” Talk not about God, as Satan did to Eve, but talk to God, as Christ did to His Father.
At the end of your sweet complaining prayer, you will say, “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” You will not so much ask to be taken down, as the thief on the left, but to be taken up as the thief who heard, “This Day, Paradise.” They who complain to others never see God’s purposes. They who complain to God find that their passion, like Christ’s, turns to compassion.
 Listening to God. Prayer begins by talking to God, but it ends by listening to Him … and that is when prayer becomes meditation. For meditation, the ear of the soul is more important than the tongue. St. Paul tells us that faith comes from listening. Most people commit the same mistake with God that they do with their friends – they do all the talking. Our Lord warned against those who “use many phrases, like the heathen, who think to make themselves heard by their eloquence.”
One can be impolite to God, too, by absorbing all the conversation, and by changing the words of Scripture from, “Speak Lord, Thy servant hears” to “Listen, Lord, Thy servant speaks.” God has things to tell us which will enlighten us – we must wait for Him to speak.
Source: Path to Peace [excerpted from the works of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen by James E. Adams for Creative Communications for the Parish, St. Louis, MO: 1985]
Jakarta, April 7, 2011 [The 4th Week of Lent]
The Christian Pilgrim (compiler)