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How to Pray

Often people pray based on what they can get out of it - whether earthly attainments or spiritual consolations. In this blog, discover how to embrace a method of prayer that is entirely unselfish and which will unite you with Jesus.

What you do and how you behave while you are praying is important, otherwise you run the risk of turning your prayer into a form of selfishness. Prayer is like climbing in order to reach the summit of the “Mount of Love”. The path leading to the summit is steep. Once you are on this path you have to forget about yourself and be open to God’s will. The ascent needs planning and clear instructions. Our mountain guide is St John of the Cross who gave clear instructions in The Ascent of Mount Carmel. If you follow them carefully, you will not get lost!

He describes three paths leading to the summit. The first path is “the path of earthly attainments”. Those who take this path are seeking all kinds of personal and material benefits; they are imposing their own will on God. This path is called “I am thinking about myself ”.

The second path is “the path of heavenly attainments and spiritual consolations”. Those who take this path are looking for God’s revelations, consolations, positive feelings and happiness. They too simply think of themselves.

Neither of these groups of climbers is nearing the summit. They are getting lost amidst their own desires. They are not even half way along the path to the summit and it is so crowded out there!

The third and true way is a path that we can call “The Five Nothings”!

This is the “narrow gate and narrow road that leads to life” (Mt 7:14) which only a few souls find. This is the path for you and me to take if we want to reach the summit and unite with God. This is a path for those who are crazy enough to take the risk. This is a path for people seeking God Himself and only His will. This is the path you can take today to meet God. You can meet your Beloved today in your silent prayer.

What are the five “Nothings” that we must seek?

The First Nothing: Standing in the presence of God

Think about the fact that Jesus lives in you. In fact, the Holy Trinity is hidden deep in your soul, but to find God there, your soul has to concentrate!

The Word, the Son of God, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is hidden in essence and in presence, in the inmost being of the soul. That soul, therefore, that will find Him, must go out from all things in will and affection, and enter into the profoundest self-recollection.

(St John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, 1:7)

  • At the beginning of your prayer forget about your own issues.
  • Concentrate only on this most important truth: GOD LIVES IN YOU!
  • Leave everything behind, your desires, senses, reason, will and memory.
  • Direct them from the external world to God’s world.

The Second Nothing: Spiritual reading

  • It is Jesus, not you, who leads your prayer.
  • Therefore open the Bible now and read.
  • Read slowly.
  • Allow some breaks.
  • Read with your heart.
  • You are reading His letter to you.
  • Open yourself to His presence!

The Third Nothing: Closing your eyes

  • This is practical advice from St Teresa of Avila.
  • This simple gesture is very helpful to stop you looking around at the outside world.
  • This gesture helps you to enter God’s world.
  • With your heart open you can find your Beloved in your soul.

The Fourth Nothing: Looking at Jesus

This is looking at Jesus with your heart in a particular scenario that you have read about in the Bible (e.g. when He is in the desert or at Cana in Galilee or talking to Nicodemus at night).

  • Look at Him as you would look at a beloved person.
  • Look at Him and allow yourself to be with Him.
  • To enter into contact with Him.

The Fifth Nothing: Making your act of faith

You make your act of faith by:

  • giving yourself totally
  • loving without any boundaries;
  • being grateful to Him for allowing you to be with Him;
  • trusting Him entirely and putting yourself into His hands.

There you reach the summit of the Mount we were talking about. You are united with Jesus – your beloved One and with the Holy Trinity. Rest in that state as long as you can!

With these simple steps you can follow Jesus and His path. This is not a new technique but it helps you to forget about yourself and to allow Him to act in you. It is Jesus who is praying to His Father inside your soul. It is He who is acting and transforming you.


Silent PrayerThis blog is extracted from Silent Prayer which teaches us how to leave everything behind and spend time with God, so as to deepen our Christian faith. Get your copy here.

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