Every once in a while while praying an annoying thing will happen which, for lack of a better word, I call a distraction, though it isn’t necessarily that. The best way I can describe it is that it feels as though the words I’m saying just want to disolve, that they want to silence themselves and just give way to what feels like something moving inside, and that this “movement” is capable of expressing itself, of conveying to God my joys and my sorrows, etc.
What exactly is it and how do I make it stop when it intrudes on my regular prayer?
I would suggest going to your spiritual director(or a holy priest, in confession) and describe what is happening to you. If this experience is not giving way to peace and you cannot make any progress in your ascent to God in prayer, you will be given the guidance you need.
It sounds to me like the Holy Spirit is awakening your soul to His presence within you…“fan the flames…” if that is the case, and see what blessings await you!
The progression of prayer in beginners is from more complex to more simple. When a person first starts praying, the person usually makes many ‘considerations’ with the intellect so as to excite the will to affection toward God, and from there to firm resolution to adhere to God in life. But, as prayer progresses these distinct acts start to become one act. Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange says, “In proportion as the soul grows, the acts of humility, faith, hope, and charity, which we have enumerated, tend, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, to fuse in a gaze of ardent love.” The spiritual writers emphasize that the natural progression of prayer is towards fewer ‘distinct’ acts, and more towards a profound affective ‘gaze’ at the Lord.
St. John of the Cross says that, in order to safely abandon the ‘discursive’ (it proceeds step by step, considering forms, images or truths, according to the intellect) meditation which characterizes beginners, that three conditions need to be met. First, one must be unable to receive the profit from discursive meditation which one used to receive. Second, one must feel disinclined to continue in such meditation. Lastly, one must be conscious of a general, loving awareness of God.
A person must become accustomed to nourish his soul with a simple and loving gaze on God and on Jesus Christ our Lord; and to this end, it must be gently separated from reasoning, discourse, and the multitude of affections, in order to hold it in simplicity, respect, and attention, and thus to bring it nearer and nearer to God, its unique, sovereign Good, its first principle and last end.
The perfection of this life consists in union with our sovereign Good; and the greater the simplicity, the more perfect also is the union. This is why grace interiorly solicits those who wish to be perfect to become simple that they may finally be rendered capable of the enjoyment of the one thing necessary, of eternal unity. . . . Unum mihi est necessarium, Deus meus et omnia! . . .
Meditation is very good in its time and very useful at the beginning of the spiritual life; but we should not stop there, since the soul, by its fidelity in mortifying and recollecting itself, ordinarily receives a purer and more intimate prayer, which may be called the prayer of simplicity. This prayer consists in a simple view, a gaze on God, on Jesus Christ, or on one of His mysteries. Therefore, leaving reasoning behind, the soul makes use of a sweet contemplation which holds it peaceful, attentive, and susceptible to the divine operations and impressions which the Holy Ghost communicates to it. It does little and receives much. . . and, as it draws nearer to the source of all light, grace, and virtue, it is also proportionately expanded. . . .
We should observe that this true simplicity makes us live in a continual death and a perfect detachment, because it makes us go to God with perfect uprightness, without pausing over any creature. However, this grace of simplicity is not obtained by speculation, but by a great purity of heart and true mortification and self-contempt; whoever flees suffering, humiliation, and death to self will never enter it. This is also the reason why there are so few who advance in it, because hardly anyone wishes to give up self; and unless he does so, he experiences great losses and deprives himself of incomprehensible goods. . . . Fidelity which makes one die to self prepares. . . for this excellent type of prayer. . . .
The enlightened soul dearly esteems the guidance of God, who allows it to be exercised by creatures and overwhelmed by temptations and abandonment. . . . After the purgation of the soul by the purgatory of sufferings, through which one must necessarily pass, will come illumination, rest, and joy through intimate union with God.
If what you’re describing is indeed the onset of the Prayer of Simplicity . . . the desire to simply rest in His presence without the need for engaging the intellect in meditation . . . then the last thing you want to do is make it stop. This Prayer of Simplicity is the gateway, in a manner of speaking, between active prayer (meditation) and passive prayer (infused contemplation).
Because this way of prayer is often new and unexpected, souls sometimes feel like they’re falling into idleness and backsliding . . . that progress means “doing” something with their prayer. As RobNY said so well, this perception of the soul does not reflect the reality of the work God is beginning to do. Thus, souls sometimes resist the grace God is giving. How? By trying to make it stop . . . to engage the intellect at a time when the soul is being drawn to a simple loving gaze. This resistance, which we must learn to overcome, lies at the heart of St. John of the Cross’ teaching on the passive night of sense.
So much more awaits the soul if it simply learns to “go with the flow” when we feel drawn to interior silence and simplicity when we pray. At such times, thinking gives way to loving . . . reasoning yields to intuition.
This seems to discribe the situation somewhat accurately. I had heard of the prayer of simplicity, but the discriptions I read left me confused all the same (and I would never imagine God giving me such a grace, at least not yet, given all the imperfections I still deal with). As I was saying, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but being so used to “talking mentally” in prayer one tends to think that all prayer has to be like that. I like discursive meditation, but sometimes it just seems to satisfy the intellectual part of me, not to mention that the words I speak seem to not fully express what I want to get across to God (not that He doesn’t already know) and this longing just remains. That occasional “interior movement” I feel does seem to have a variety of things in it: joy, sorrow of sins, etc.
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This seems to discribe the situation somewhat accurately. I had heard of the prayer of simplicity, but the discriptions I read left me confused all the same (and I would never imagine God giving me such a grace, at least not yet, given all the imperfections I still deal with). As I was saying, it isn't necessarily a bad thing, but being so used to "talking mentally" in prayer one tends to think that all prayer has to be like that. I like discursive meditation, but sometimes it just seems to satisfy the intellectual part of me, not to mention that the words I speak seem to not fully express what I want to get across to God (not that He doesn't already know) and this longing just remains. That occasional "interior movement" I feel does seem to have a variety of things in it: joy, sorrow of sins, etc.
You seem to have a good handle on it all. :thumbsup:
There's a time and season for all of this. You might find yourself talking to Christ throughout your daily activities (mental prayer) and finding satisfaction in discursive meditation at your formal times of prayer. This is all well and good.
Sometimes, though, our active ways lead us to the threshold of passive prayer when interior silence and simplicity begins to overtake us and thoughts, feelings, emotions, ideas, words . . . any conceptual concept . . . begin to fade into the background while a simple, non-conceptual loving gaze comes into the forefront. These moments are what one Saint called those "I look at Him and He looks at me times." Infused contemplation, God willing, often flows from here.
Prayer is conversation. Seen this way, our mental prayer and meditation is when we talk. The Prayer of Simplicity (and the infused contemplation states which follow) are one of the many ways we learn to listen. And with this way of prayer, listening happens in silence.
And we will know if all of this is authentic if it bears fruit in our life. Talking and listening at prayer should lead to "hearing" in our daily activities. Not hearing in the sense of audible words, of course, but all those little interior prompts we become aware of in our mind that lead us to practice virtue in a newer and deeper way.
Growth in virtue and personal transformation in Christ is what all of this is about. So, yes, all of this begins to happen in those still mired in imperfection as you say :) Purification of our imperfections is precisely what happens in passive prayer. As St. John of the Cross teaches, God pulls up by the very roots those imperfections, attachments and bad habits we can't rid our souls of ourselves.