Intimate Friendship and Loving Colloquy
“Mental prayer is nothing else than an intimate friendship, a frequent heart to heart conversation with Him by whom we know ourselves to be loved,” says Saint Teresa of Avila.
According to the Carmelite spiritual tradition, there is nothing more critical in private prayer than talking to God in your own words. In his contemporary spiritual classic, “Conversation with Christ,” Thomas Rohrbach defines mental prayer or meditation as “a personal heart-to-heart conversation with Christ.” Rohrbach teaches that meditation or “mental prayer” is prayer “without aid of rosaries, prayer books or missals.”
Father Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdalen O.C.D. (1893–1953), respected theologian and expert on Saint Teresa and Saint John of the Cross, writes:
“[Saint Teresa] insists: during prayer, do not spend the whole time reasoning, but when, after having spent some time in mental discourse, you are convinced that the Lord loves you, leave reasoning aside and, remaining quiet in the presence of the Lord, start up an affectionate conversation with Him. In this, open your heart with all the desires that you have for Him and for yourself, for His glory and for your needs. This, for Saint Teresa, is the whole substance of mental prayer, and for that reason, it can well be said that, for the great saint, prayer is “a loving conversation with the Lord.””
According to Father Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdalen, in his booklet, Little Catechism of the Life of Prayer, the most important part of prayer, the essential aspect of true prayer, is this familiar, loving, extemporaneous conversation with God. All the other steps in formal discursive meditation are intended to bring us to simply speaking with Christ in a friendly conversation he calls “the colloquy.”
Please, Just Talk to God In Your Own Words, For Heaven’s Sake!
Accept for a moment the intriguing claim of Saint Teresa, Thomas Rohrbach, and Father Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdalen that intimate friendship and familiar conversation with God is what is essential. How often do we do this? Do our prayers consist only of beads (or prayer ropes), books, and memorized texts? Our beads, books, and memorized texts are good, necessary, and helpful. But if we never talk to God in our own words, aren’t we missing something important? Aren’t we denying the essence of Christianity, that “Christ is Risen!”? Our God is the “living God” (Dt. 5:26), not a ticket punch, computer program, or magical energy field that can simply be manipulated with the correct code, formula, or spell.
Monotony and Boredom
Isn’t it true that if we limit ourselves to formal written prayers and memorized words, our hearts remain cold and hard toward God, we never develop any sense of God’s presence, and we can barely bring ourselves to endure the boredom and monotony of prayer? After attentively reciting our formal prayers of obligation, after considering the daily readings carefully, and after attending closely to the prayers and hymns of the Divine Liturgy and Divine Praises, let’s open our hearts and speak with love, devotion, sincerity, and simplicity to God in our own words, in a heart-to-heart, personal conversation.
What Could Be Better Than Talking To Jesus?
In the Catholic Church today, we find all different spiritualities, some valid and some entirely foreign to the Christian tradition. Who hasn’t heard of the Enneagram, Yoga, Insight Meditation, or mantras? How can these things compare to a close friendship and familiar conversations with Christ? Isn’t it silly to be blanking out the mind, twisting the body into absurd positions, endlessly repeating some phrase or aspiration, until our jaws are sore and our heads ache, when we might easily be talking to God, to Christ, to Our Lady, our guardian angel, or our patron saint? What could be better than speaking to Jesus in open, familiar, sincere words of our own?
Of course, there are times when we might draw a blank and not have anything to say to God in prayer. That’s the time to resort to our prayer books and beads and memorized prayers. Eventually, they will bring us back to the familiar conversation with God, which is truly the apex of all prayer.
The secret of the spiritual life, prayer, mystical contemplation, holy and virtuous living, and every other spiritual attainment is found in this heart-to-heart “loving conversation with the Lord.” Engage in it as much as you can.
Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us (Ps. 62:8).