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Friday, 9 December 2016

Prayer - Desire of the Heart

Prayer is the Desires of the Heart 

The Desire of Your Heart 
Constitutes Your Prayer

From a discourse on the psalms by Saint Augustine, bishop

In the anguish of my heart I groaned aloud. There is a hidden anguish which is inaudible to men.  Yet when a man’s heart is so taken up with some particular concern that the hurt inside finds vocal expression, one looks for the reason.  And one will say to oneself: perhaps this is what causes his anguish, or perhaps such and such has happened to him.  

                 But who can be certain of the cause except God, 
                        who hears and sees his anguish?  

Therefore the psalmist says: In the anguish of my heart I groaned aloud. For if men hear at all, they usually hear only bodily groaning and know nothing of the anguish of the heart from which it issues.

Who then knows the cause of man’s groaning? All my desire is before you.  No, it is not open before other men, for they cannot understand the heart; but before you is all my desire. 

If your desire lies open to Him who is your Father 
and Who sees in secret, He will answer you.

For the desire of your heart is itself your prayer.

And if the desire is constant, so is your prayer.  The Apostle Paul had a purpose in saying: Pray without ceasing.  Are we then ceaselessly to bend our knees, to lie prostrate, or to lift up our hands?  Is this what is meant in saying: Pray without ceasing? Even if we admit that we pray in this fashion, I do not believe that we can do so all the time.

Yet there is another, interior kind of prayer without ceasing, namely, the desire of the heart. 

Whatever else you may be doing, 
if you but fix your desire on God’s Sabbath rest, 
your prayer will be ceaseless.
 
Therefore, if you wish to pray without ceasing, 
do not cease to desire.

The constancy of your desire will itself be the ceaseless voice of your prayer.  And that voice of your prayer will be silent only when your love ceases.  For who is silent?  Those of whom it is said: Because evil has abounded, the love of many will grow cold.

St. Augustine of Hippo
The chilling of love means that the heart is silent; while burning love is the outcry of the heart.  

If your love is without ceasing, you are crying out always; if you always cry out, you are always desiring; and if you desire, you are calling to mind your eternal rest in the Lord.

And all my desire is before you. What if the desire of our heart is before him, but not our groaning?  But how is that possible since the groaning is the voice of our desire?  And therefore it is said: My groaning is not concealed from you. It may be concealed from men, but it is not concealed from you.  Sometimes God’s servant seems to be saying in his humility: My anguish is not concealed from you.  At other times he seems to be laughing.  Does that mean that the desire of his heart has died within him?  If the desire is there, then the groaning is there as well.  Even if men fail to hear it, it never ceases to sound in the hearing of God.


“We are Christ’s pilgrim people, 
journeying until we reach our homeland, 
singing on the way as we eagerly 
expect the fulfillment of our hope. 
For if one hopes, even though his tongue is still, 
he is singing always in his heart.

But the man who has no hope, 
no matter what clamors and shouts 
he makes to be heard by men, 
is speechless in the presence of God.”

God's pilgrim on the journey


Excerpt from the Liturgy of the Hours Friday, 3rd Week of Advent