BIA Benedict XVI Institute for Africa
Agbaw Ebai

Agbaw Ebai Ashley

Father Maurice: A Praying Community

Christian prayer is like oxygen. I find it impossible to live without daily prayer. And prayer is like a school, in which we grow from one class to the next. Christian prayer differentiates between Vocal, Meditation and Contemplation, as modes of prayer.

With Vocal Prayer, we express ourselves in words to God. Vocal prayer can be found in the expression, the Word of God. When spoken, prayers leave the heart, and as they leave us, we hear them and we hear ourselves in them. And in this way, we can give witness to the meaning of the prayer as we speak it before God, who hears both that within our hearts and that which we are willing to confess out loud (see Lk 19:40). Vocal Prayer is the most popular form of prayer, the easiest prayer, for speech is the first and easiest form of human communication. Vocal Prayer is the prayer of the soul in distress, a soul that cries out to God.

With the Prayer of Meditation, we want to hold truths in the heart, inflamed with love like gold in a furnace, until the soul’s own impurities have departed, leaving only the truth, which has become brilliant and reflective of God’s glory (see Proverbs 17:3). Or perhaps we can say that meditative prayer is like listening to a song until one knows each note by heart, and then listening to it still more, until one knows about its origin (see Deut 31:19). An example of meditative prayer is to think of the personhood of Jesus by his many titles (the Good Shepherd, the King of Kings, Emmanuel), and consider how you relate to him in each way. I slowly repeat the words, allowing the words to sink peacefully into my soul. Repetition is an integral part of Meditative Prayer. Even my breathing is likewise a part of meditative prayer.

Contemplative prayer is prayer through living with the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s life. For this reason, contemplative prayer is the following of Jesus by the placing of ourselves in the scenes of the Gospel. I see myself, for example, in the Sermon of the Mount. I am able to see the crowd listening to Jesus. I hear his words as being addressed to me. I look into the eyes of Jesus and allow myself to be caught up by Jesus’s gaze. I look around me and notice the others, all listening to Jesus. The aim of Contemplative Prayer is to enter into the scenes of the Bible, in an active sense.

Adoration offers a unique opportunity for Contemplative Prayer. Some of us are hesitant to sign up for the Holy Hour. We feel that an hour of prayer might be too lengthy. We are wondering if we could pray for an hour. But we might be missing something that is special in the spiritual life, and that is, in prayer, it is not just me taking the first step, but it is God who comes to meet me as well. In Contemplative Prayer, which is what Eucharistic Adoration essentially is, I enter into the presence of Jesus, and spend time with Jesus, in a heart to heart intimacy.

Contemplative Prayer is very, very refreshing. It energizes you. Oftentimes, you don’t even notice how fast time has gone by! Contemplative Prayer, though beginning with an active engagement with Jesus in the scenes of the Bible, turns to a passive experience wherein, in the words of the Bible, I stay still and know that God is God.

If you invest in Contemplative Prayer, I promise you, you would find so much energy, peace and joy. A lot of things will subsequently drop off your shoulders. And I say “invest,” for Contemplative Prayer does not just happen!