Mother Teresa - Chapter 1 - On Prayer
I don't think there is anyone who needs God's help and grace as much
as I do. Sometimes I feel so helpless and weak. I think that is why
God uses me. Because I cannot depend on my own strength, I rely on
Him twenty-four hours a day. If the day had even more hours, then I
would need His help and grace during those hours as well. All of us
must cling to God through prayer.
My secret is very simple: I pray. Through prayer I become one in love
with Christ. I realize that praying to Him is loving Him.
In reality, there is only one true prayer, only one substantial
prayer: Christ Himself. There is only one voice that rises above the
face of the earth: the voice of Christ. Perfect prayer does not
consist in many words, but in the fervor of the desire which raises
the heart to Jesus.
Love to pray. Feel the need to pray often during the day. Prayer
enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God's gift of
Himself. Ask and seek and your heart will grow big enough to receive
Him and keep We want so much to pray properly and then we fail. We
get discouraged and give up. If you want to pray better, you must
pray more. God allows the failure but He does not want the
discouragement. He wants us to be more childlike, more humble, more
grateful in prayer, to remember we all belong to the mystical body of
Christ, which is praying always.
We need to help each other in our prayers. Let us free our minds.
Let's not pray long, drawn-out prayers, but let's pray short ones
full of love. Let us pray on behalf of those who do not pray. Let us
remember, if we want to be able to love, we must be able to pray!
Prayer that comes from the mind and heart is called mental prayer. We
must never forget that we are bound toward perfection and should aim
ceaselessly at it. The practice of daily mental prayer is necessary
to reach that goal. Because it is the breath of life to our soul,
holiness is impossible without it.
It is only by mental prayer and spiritual reading that we can
cultivate the gift of prayer. Mental prayer is greatly fostered by
simplicity - that is, forgetfulness of self by transcending of the
body and of our senses, and by frequent aspirations that feed our
prayer. "In Mental Prayer", says Saint John Vianney, "shut your eyes,
shut your mouth, and open your heart." In vocal prayer we speak to
God; in mental prayer He speaks to us. It is then that God pours
Himself into us.
Our prayers should be burning words that come forth from the furnace
of hearts filled with love. In your prayers, speak to God with great
reverence and confidence. Do not drag behind or run ahead; do not
shout or keep silent, but devoutly, with great sweetness, with
natural simplicity, without any affectation, offer your praise to God
with the whole of your heart and soul.
Just once, let the love of God take entire and absolute possession of
your heart; let it become to your heart like a second nature; let
your heart suffer nothing contrary to enter; let it apply itself
continually to increase this love of God by seeking to please Him in
all things and refusing Him nothing; let it accept as from His hand
everything that happens to it; let it have a firm determination never
to commit any fault deliberately or knowingly, or if it should fail,
to be humbled and to rise up again at once - and such a heart will
People are hungry for the Word of God that will give peace, that will
give unity, that will give joy. But you can't give what you don't
have. That's why it's necessary to deepen your life of prayer.
Be sincere in your prayers. Sincerity is humility, and you acquire
humility only by accepting humiliations. All that has been said about
humility is not enough to teach you humility. All that you have read
about humility is not enough to teach you humility. You learn
humility only by accepting humiliations. And you will meet
humiliation all through your life. The greatest humiliation is to
know that you are nothing. This you come to know when you face God in
Often a deep and fervent look at Christ is the best prayer: I look at
Him and He looks at me. When you come face to face with God you
cannot but know that you are nothing, that you have nothing.
It is difficult to pray if you don't know how to pray, but we must
help ourselves to pray. The first means to use is silence. We cannot
put ourselves directly in the presence of God if we do not practice
internal and external silence.
The interior silence is very difficult, but we must make the effort.
In silence we will find new energy and true unity. The energy of God
will be ours to do all things well, and so will the unity of our
thoughts, the unity of our prayers, the unity of our actions with His
actions, of our life with His life. Unity if the fruit of prayer, of
humility, of love.
In the silence of the heart, God speaks. If you face God in prayer
and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are
nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your
emptyness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of great prayer
and souls of great silence.
Silence gives us a new outlook on everything. We need silence to be
able to touch souls. The essential thing is not what we say but what
God says to us and through us. In that sil Listen in silence, because
if your heart is full of other things you cannot hear the voice of
God. But when you have listened to the voice of God in the stillness
of your heart, then your heart is filled with God. This will need
much sacrifice, but if we really mean to pray and want to pray we
must be ready to do it now. These are only the first steps toward
prayer but if we never make the first step with a determination, we
will not reach the last one, the presence of God.
This is what we have to learn right from the beginning; to listen to
the voice of God in our heart, and then in the silence of the heart
God speaks. Then from the fullness of our hearts, our mouth will have
to speak. That is the connection. In the silence of the heart God
speaks and you have to listen. Then in the fullness of your heart,
because it is full of God, full of love, full of compassion, full of
faith, your mouth will speak. Remember before you speak, it is
necessary to listen, and only then, from the fullness of your heart
you speak and God listens.
The Contemplatives and ascetics of all ages and religions have sought
God in the silence and the solitude of the desert, forest and
mountain. Jesus, Himself, spent 40 days in the desert and the
mountains, communing for long hours with the Father in the silence of
We too, are called to withdraw at certain intervals into deeper
silence and aloneness with God, together as a community as well as
personally. To be alone with Him, not with our books, thoughts and
memories but completely stripped of everything, to dwell lovingly in
His presence - silent, empty, expectant and motionless.
We cannot find God in noise or agitation. Nature, trees, flowers and
grass grow in silence. The stars, the moon, and the sun move in
silence. What is essential is not what we say but what God tells us
and what He tells others through us. In silence He listens to us, in
silence He speaks to our souls. In silence we are granted the
privilege of listening to His voice.
Silence of our eyes, Silence of our ears, Silence of our mouths,
Silence of our minds.....in the Silence of the heart God will speak.
Silence of the heart is necessary so you can hear God everywhere. In
the closing of the door, in the person who needs you, in the birds
that sing, in the flowers, in the animals.
If we are careful of silence, it will be easy to pray. There is so
much talk, so much repetition, so much carrying on of tales in words
and in writing. Our prayer life suffers so much because our hearts
are not silent. I shall keep the silence of my heart with greater
care so that in the silence of my heart I hear His words of comfort
and from the fullness of my heart I comfort Jesus in the distressing
disguise of the poor.
Real prayer is in union with God, a union as vital as that of the
vine to the branch, which is the illustration Jesus gives us in the
Gospel of John. We need prayer. We need that union to produce good
fruit. The fruit is what we produce with our hands, whether it be
food, clothing, money, or something else. All of this is the fruit of
our oneness with God. We need a life of prayer, of poverty, and of
sacrifice to do it with love.
Sacrifice and prayer compliment each other. There is no prayer
without sacrifice, and there is no sacrifice without prayer. Jesus'
life was spent in intimate union with His Father as He passed thru
this world. We need to do the same. Let's walk by His side. We need
to give Christ a chance to make use of us, to be His Word and His
Work, to share His food, and His clothing in the world today.
If we do not radiate the life of Christ around us, the sense of the
darkness that prevails in the world will increase.
We are called to love the world. And God loved the world so much that
He gave us Jesus. Today He loves the world so much that He gives you
and me to be His love, His compassion, and His presence, through a
life of prayer, of sacrifice, of surrender to God. The response that
God asks of you is to be a contemplative.
If we take Jesus at His word, all of us are contemplatives in the
heart of the world, for we have faith, we are continually in His
presence. By contemplation, the soul draws directly from the heart of
God the graces, which the active life must distribute. Our lives must
be connected with the living Christ within us. If we do not live in
the presence of God we cannot go on.
What is contemplation? To live the life of Jesus. This is what I
understand. To love Jesus, to live His life in us, to live our life
in His life. That's contemplation. We must have a clean heart to be
able to see - no jeasously, anger, contention, and especially no
uncharitableness. To me, contemplation is not to be locked in a dark
place, but to allow Jesus to live His passion, His love, His humility
in us, praying with us, being with us, and sanctifying through us.
Our contemplation is our life. It is not a matter of doing, but
being. It is the possession of our spirit by the Holy Spirit
breathing into us the plenitude of God and sending us forth to the
whole creation as His personal message of love.
We shall not waste our time in looking for extraordinary experiences
in our life of contemplation, but live by pure faith, ever watchful
and ready for His coming by doing our day to day duties with
extraordinary love and devotion.
Our life of contemplation simply put is to realize God's constant
presence and His tender love for us in the least little things of
life. To be constantly available to Him, loving Him with our whole
heart, whole mind, whole soul, and whole strength, no matter in what
form He may come to us. Does your mind and heart go to Jesus as soon
as you get up in the morning? This is prayer, that you turn your mind
and heart to God.
Prayer is the very life of oneness, of being one with Christ.
Therefore, prayer is as necessary as the air, as the blood in our
body, as anything, to keep us alive to the grace of God. To pray
generously is not enough, we must pray devoutly, with fervor and
piety. We must pray perseveringly and with great love. If we don't
pray, our presence will have no power, our words will have no power.
We need prayers to better carry out the work of God, and so that
every moment we may know how to be completely available to Him. We
should make every effort to walk in the presence of God, to see God
in all the persons we meet, to live our prayer throughout the day.
Knowledge of the self puts us on our knees, and it is very necessary
for love. For knowledge of God produces love, and knowledge of the
self produces humility. Knowledge of the self is a very important
thing in our lives. As St. Augustine says, "Fill yourselves first,
and then only will you be able to give to others.
Knowledge of the self is also a safeguard against pride, especially
when you are tempted in life. The greatest mistake is to think you
are too strong to fall into temptation. Put your finger in the fire
and it will burn. So we have to go thru the fire. The temptations are
allowed by God. The only thing we have to do is refuse to give in.
Prayer, to be fruitful, must come from the heart and must be able to
touch the heart of God. See how Jesus taught His disciples to pray. I
believe each time we say the "Our Father" God looks at His Hands
where He has carved us. ("I have carved you in the palm of My hand.")
See Isaiah 49:16. He looks at His Hands, and He sees us there. How
wonderful the tenderness and love of God!
If we pray the "Our Father" and live it, we will be holy. Everything
is there, God, myself, my neighbor. If I forgive, than I can be holy
and pray. All this comes from a humble heart, and if we have this, we
will know how to love God, to love self, and to love our neighbor.
This is not complicated, and yet we complicate our lives so much by
so many additions. Just one thing counts - to be humble, to pray. The
more you pray, the better you will pray.
A child has no difficulty expressing his little mind in simple words
that say so much. Jesus said to Nicodemus: "Become as a little
child". If we pray the gospel, we will allow Christ to grow in us. So
pray lovingly, like children, with an ernest desire to love much and
to make loved the one that is not loved.
All our words will be useless unless they come from within. Words
that do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness. Today,
more than ever, we need to pray for the light to know the will of
God, for the love to accept the will of God, for the way we do the
will of God.
Here are some quotes:
St. Therese of Lieux
For me, prayer means launching out of the heart toward God, a cry of
grateful love from the crest of joy or the trough of despair; it is a
vast, supernatural force that opens out my heart, and binds me close
Jesus to Mark 11:24 NAB
I give you my word, if you are ready to believe that you will receive
whatever you ask for in prayer, it shall be done for you.
Next chapter - On Love