The Prayer of the Heart

Virgin of Tenderness

This ancient practice is said to go back to the early desert monks and nuns of the eastern church, but wherever genuine sanctity has been found, some version of this practice is also found, whether intuitively arisen or intentionally developed.

Some say that the path of the saint is more challenging than the path of the sage. Only the humble and consecrated heart, hidden like a jewel in the midst of a life of service, is an acceptable dwelling for the Spirit of God. Holy Grace does not come to rest in a heart rank with pride and selfishness.

It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.

St. Augustin of Hippo

This form of contemplative prayer seeks to bring the mind down into the heart, and hold it there in a state of inner prostration before the Divine Presence. The prayers used for this practice are short “arrow prayers.” Called so because they are aimed straight into the depth of the heart. “Lord have mercy”, “Thy will be done” are two common examples. Any of the names or attributes of the Divine can be used according to the present developmental need of the student.

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient and ever new! Late have I loved you! And, behold, you were within me, and I out of myself, and there I searched for you.

St. Augustin of Hippo

A life of prayer was never meant to stand alone outside of a life ordered around spiritual values. In addition to daily time dedicated to the practice of contemplative prayer, the daily study of scripture or the teachings of the men and women known for their holiness, along with dedicated times of verbal prayer are needed. Prayers of thanksgiving, repentance, and intercession must become the daily diet of the mind and heart. Additionally, belonging to a community of faith supports us in the life of discipleship as will weekly time commitments dedicated to serving those in need. Weekly attendance of worship is especially encouraged. How long will an ember stay lit when removed from the fire?

What does love look like? It has hands to help others. It has feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.

St. Augustin of Hippo
Homeless Jesus

Contemplative prayer is a living relationship with the mystery of Divine Presence. It is never a mere technique. Although some mastery of the attention is needed, the core of the matter is the depth and completeness of our self-offering. This is a journey not a destination. Perfection of the heart ever eludes us, and being ever forgiven, we carry on. The journey itself is our offering of love in hope of incorporation by grace and mercy into True Life.

Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.

St. Augustin of Hippo

May our days become a constant prayer, not as mere words but as the constant inner posture of our being. Devotion is the key to success in any authentic spirituality. Without the deep inner transparency to grace that only humility can give, no real or lasting regeneration of our humanity is possible.

Beauty grows in you to the extent that love grows, because charity itself is the soul’s beauty.

St. Augustin of Hippo