Prayer of the heart Fr Gregory cswg

We all know we have a physical heart, and how important it is that this heart should be working properly; but not everyone, even among people who pray, knows that we have a spiritual heart, and that this heart too needs to be in good condition. For the spiritual heart is the centre of our whole being – body, soul and spirit – where the Holy Spirit would dwell to keep our life open to God. When the heart is working properly, we are given to know that the person we truly are is in and from God our Creator, that we are loved and cared for by him, and that it is necessary to take our life from him.

This realization of ourselves as a son or daughter of God, being formed in the heart, makes an immense difference to how we pray. Instead of telling God what our head thinks would be good for ourselves and other people, our concern becomes one of listening to him, beginning with the Word of God in Scripture, so as to learn from him what is his purpose for humanity as a whole and for ourselves in particular. This basic knowledge and understanding is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and it is formed first of all in the heart.

Role of the mind

What part then does our mind take in this? Nothing much until the mind has agreed that it is not the ruling and directive centre of our life, and that it must hand this role over to God. Then the mind can learn the humility of repentance, and can be shown by the Spirit of truth how all our sins of thought, word and deed are in fact by-products of holding an upside down view of life, a fantasy of ourselves as the boss. When the mind has learnt this basic lesson in humility, it can descend into the heart, and do its thinking and praying from there, being enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

Surrender of the self

The next stage of this lesson from the Holy Spirit in the heart is how to become free from the distractions that disturb the prayer of the heart and confuse its new understanding of the will of God. Basically the will of God is that we should surrender ourselves in all circumstances to the Father in union with the holy Sacrifice of Christ. By our persevering in this way, the Father can send upon us through the increase of the Holy Spirit, to sanctify our whole self and to transform us into a new creation in Christ. Indeed this is why he became incarnate for us; and this is how we can reach the maturity of the sons and daughters of God, and can enter into the unity of his kingdom.

This complete surrender of our whole self in Christ must come to include all that we find difficult in life and in prayer: forgiving those who sin against us, surrendering the disappointments and frustrations of life, and the sufferings of illness. To accomplish this total oblation to the Father, our own heart needs to be united to the Sacred Heart of Christ. The goal of this adventure is for our heart to become an altar united with the Altar of the Eucharist. God will be glorified both in worship and throughout our whole life; heaven will have come down to earth.