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SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

True Freedom Through Prayer

March 30, 2014 by  
Filed under Books, Patti Armstrong, Prayer

“What the world most needs today is prayer,” according to Fr. Jacques Philippe, author and retreat master. His books on prayer and spirituality are printed in 18 languages and have sold over 500,000 copies. “Faithfulness to prayer is a path of freedom,” he writes in his newest book, Thirsting for Prayer.  He explains that prayer is more about spending time with God than asking for things. It deepens our understanding of God and ourselves and keeps God, rather than ourselves, at the center of our life.

Fr. Philippe wrote this book because he said the hunger and need for prayer in our world impelled him. “I often go to preach retreats in many different countries, and I am struck by the thirst for prayer that is apparent today among so many people…but also by the need that exists for definite signposts to ensure their perseverance.”

Make the Time

Praying well, according to Fr. Philippe, begins by making time for it. Without faithfulness to our appointments with prayer, by contrast, there is a serious risk that our lives may never acquire any coherent meaning,” he writes. He states that prayer will give birth to all the renewals, healings, and transformations we all want for society today. “This world of ours is very sick, and only contact with heaven will be able to cure it,” he says. “The most useful thing for the Church to do today is to give people a thirst for prayer and teach them to pray.”

The opposite are those who have everything through prayer. On that basis, God can freely enter their lives and act in them, working the marvels of his grace. But Fr. Philippe says we are all not the same and we should do whatever we can.

“I know lay people fully taken up by their family and work commitments who in twenty minutes of daily prayer receive as many graces as monks who pray for five hours a day,” he writes.

God himself is inviting us to prayer, says Fr. Philippe, but he points out that while man searches for God, God seeks out man even more actively. With that in mind, he warns that we risk becoming discouraged at some stage if we just pray for the sake of the benefits we hope to obtain because benefits are neither instantaneous nor measurable. “God knows what is good for us, and that should be enough for us,” he says. “We ought not to take a utilitarian view of prayer, reducing it to questions of results and profits; that would distort it completely. God invites us, so to speak, to “waste time” on him, and that is enough.” Yet, paradoxically, Fr. Philippe says that the more our prayer is done freely–not to get something out of it–the more it will bear fruit.

God, Not Self, in the Center

By putting God at the center, we find balance and detachment from ourselves. Prayer teaches us to put down our roots in God, to “abide in his love.” Fr. Philippe acknowledges we will experience trials and weariness since we need to experience our weakness and know that we are poor and small. Nevertheless, he says it is still true that in prayer, God is able to give us the energy, sometimes including physical energy that we need to serve him and love him.

In the end, Fr. Philippe says that prayer gives us a foretaste of heaven. “It makes us glimpse and savor a happiness that is not of this world, and that nothing here below can give us: the happiness in God for which we are destined, for which we were created. Yes, we do encounter struggles, sufferings, and aridity in our prayer lives, but if we persevere faithfully in prayer, we taste from time to time an inexpressible happiness: a degree of peace and fulfillment that are a real foretaste of paradise. ‘You will see heaven opened,’ Jesus has promised us (Jn 1:51).”

According to Fr. Philippe, it is a spiritual emptiness that drives people into a frenzied search for sense satisfactions.  “People sometimes have an insatiable need to feel, to savor, to experience newer and more intense emotions and sensations, and this need can lead to destructive behaviors, as in the areas of sex, drugs, etc.,” he writes.

When meaning is lacking, people try to replace it with feelings and sensations. Fr. Philippe explains: “’Get your fill of sensations,’ said a recent car advertisement. But that is a dead end, producing nothing but frustration, even self-destruction and violence. A thousand satisfactions do not add up to happiness.”

It is through prayer, Fr. Philippe says, that causes us little by little, to experience our real treasure within us, that we possess within ourselves the Kingdom and its happiness. “This discovery will make us freer with regard to earthly possessions, liberating us gradually from the excessive need to have things.”

By contrast, he says, without prayer, there is a serious risk that our lives may never acquire any coherent meaning. “He who does not gather with me scatters,” our Lord tells us (Mt 12:30; Lk 11:23).

True freedom, Fr. Philippe explains, come from prayer. “It teaches us progressively to seek in God the essential gifts we desire: infinite, everlasting love, peace, security, happiness . . . and to find them, because ‘he who seeks, finds,’ as the Gospel assures us (Mt 7:8).”

 

Art: File photos.

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About Patti Maguire Armstrong

Patti Maguire Armstrong and her husband have ten children. She is an award-winning author and was managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press's Amazing Grace Series. Her newest books are: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families, a collection of stories to inspire family love, and Dear God, I Don't Get It and the sequel, Dear God, You Can't Be Serious, children's fiction that feeds the soul through a fun and exciting story. Patti's Blog http://www.pattimaguirearmstrong.com. Facebook. Twitter.

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  • Donielle

    Fr. Philippe’s writings have been extremely helpful, life changing to say the least. He has tought me so much. I have read all of his books and I just started “thirsting for prayer”.

  • Jeanette

    Re: “God invites us, so to speak, to “waste time” on him, and that is enough.” Yet, paradoxically, Fr. Philippe says that the more our prayer is done freely—not to get something out of it–the more it will bear fruit.”

    During my prayer times, I have been led to ask the Holy Spirit, “How do you want me to pray right now?” I find if I ‘wait on Him’, He will show me…either by a stronger inclination to just rest in the Lord, enjoying His presence and awaiting a word, praying the rosary meditating on the mysteries, reading scripture with meditation, verbal prayers or petitions. Let the Holy Spirit lead you….’ask’ and ‘wait on the Lord’ before prayer. Indeed, I believe it is true, as Fr. Philippe has said, that God invites us to ‘waste time’ on Him and that is enough.

  • Suzi dutro

    Thank you Patti, I am 3/4 of the way through this little gem of a book! Like all Fr Philippe’s books they speak to you as if he wrote it for you personally. His books, as small as they are take time to read as I ponder every sentence. He says that prayer is more about spending time with God than asking Him for things – I am trying to gently teach this to my young children. May God continue to Bless Fr Philippe and his writings.

    • Patti Maguire Armstrong

      You are welcome. I can pick a favorite of Fr. Philippe’s books. They all speak to the heart in such a personal way.

  • http://www.thelittlestway.com/ Jenny

    I just finished reading Thirsting for Prayer and have to say, if this is not my favorite Fr Philippe book, it’s a close second!

  • patricia

    I just got Time for God but now I need to get this book since it speaks of abiding in Gods love. I meditate on this daily as words to live by which keeps me grounded in faith hope and love the church the sacraments. I am looking forward to reading thirsting for prayer. We can use our senses to search the things above heaven divine life in the Holy Trinity.

  • judeen

    prayer , the Power of it.. when it is said in the heart.. I know alot of lay people who have expereinced God in a very Powerful way.. seen angles and feel the presence of God.. people who prayed and seekered for God.. yes one can expereince God like in the bible.. us.. it is trying to do Gods will and repent of our sins and forgive everyone even our selves.. then pray form your heart… even taking your songs and sing infront of the tabernacle playing or singing with all your heart to please God.. wow… then if 1 is a lay person they usually think they wish they were a priest or nun.. yet God has called them to the job they have… to do it well and do it for Him in loving way… God is real and is on earth too… He is everywhere… too when we pray memories prayers we NEED to say them from our hearts. and pray for others… to put God in their lives…. every day… wow

  • AHD

    Jesus is often saying to me now when I’m praying: “Stop talking now. Just spend time with me.” Or “Be quiet. Relax.” I guess that is what I need… I am talking all day at work and continue doing that when I am home.
    I am reading Interior Freedom during Lent and I have to stop after about 4 pages. I usually have to reread parts of what I read the day before because it really speaks to me.

  • http://contemplativehomeschool.com Connie Rossini

    Time for God was a gem. I can hardly wait to read this new book on the subject.

  • Estefania

    I do notice that when I feel a lack of intimacy with God, I go for sensations which I guess on some level I think will make me happy and they don’t.
    I think the most happiness comes from finding meaning as this post mentions; when we are doing things and they are not for the glory of God and His Kingdom, then they lose meaning b/c we are somehow distanced from the one we really love and the one who loves us the most, that’s my take on it. I hope I can buy the book to learn more . Thank you Patti and Fr. Philippe for sharing. May God continue to bless you…

    • MarcAlcan

      Amen

  • MarcAlcan

    Prayer teaches us to put down our roots in God

    Wow!
    The imagery there is just much to beautiful!
    Oh to be that tree that is so rooted in God it bears much fruit according to His wishes. A tree so deeply grounded that no storm, no hurricane, no tornado can uproot it and cast it away.

    • quisutDeusmpc

      It sounds to me that both Fr. Phillippe and you have the same mind. Jesus Christ as the ‘tree of life’:

      “Out of the ground the LORD God made grow every tree that was delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river rises in Eden to water the garden; beyond there it divides and becomes four branches.”

      Genesis 2: 9, 10

      “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
      Nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in company with scoffers.
      Rather, the law of the LORD is his joy; and on his law he meditates
      day and night.
      He is like a tree planted near streams of water, that yields its fruit in
      season;
      Its leaves never wither; whatever he does prospers.”

      Psalm 1: 1-3

      “Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of its street. On either side of the river grew the tree of life that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month; the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations.”

      Apocalypse 22: 1, 2

  • Willie Simpson

    Thank you for this ministry; I have recently ordered this book and am now enjoying his profound work.

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