This quote is a good reminder to me of the importance of developing a daily practice of prayer. Whether that's centering prayer, breath prayer, healing prayer, or walking prayer--contemplative prayer is a spiritual discipline, and thus something we must do frequently and repetitively, until it is second nature. The Latin here is helpful to grasp the full meaning of what it means to take something on as a discipline. Our English word for discipline is said to come from the Latin discere "to learn," which is related to the root dek- "to take, accept." Another source suggests that our modern word discipline possibly came from a combination of the Latin discipere "to grasp intellectually, analyze thoroughly," and capere "to take, take hold of." I love these etymological exercises. Taking words apart like this helps to bring fuller meaning to words whose meanings we tend to take for granted. I like this idea of taking hold of and grasping something. It seems less abstract, more experiential than just learning. In educational settings there's often an emphasis on "experiential learning," as if this is something different from learning in general. It must be if the experiential aspect of learning is something we have to emphasize. Contemplative prayer as a spiritual discipline is experiential. It's tactile in the sense that it's something you pick up and take hold of in order to grasp thoroughly and completely. And it isn't something just done once, but over and over in order to build something like muscle memory. Like any sport or instrument, daily practice is imperative for developing these "soul reflexes."
If you don't already have your own practice of daily prayer and you haven't already joined me in praying daily through advent, I invite you to come along with me in intentionally carving out space in our hectic lives for contemplative prayer. I have been posting a daily psalm from the Divine Offices (from
http://www.missionstclare.com/) and spending some time in centering prayer, which is described in more detail in the post "On Love and Prayer" from 11/27/14. I have learned a lot about myself these past few weeks, about where I'm strong and where I have room for growth. It is interesting how much developing a spiritual discipline, like prayer, is like other kinds of learning, like learning to play an instrument or a sport or learning to dance. I've found that when I come across something difficult, something that just doesn't come naturally, it's best to keep at it until it does.
This evening's psalm is Psalm 116.
1 I love the Lord, because he has heard
my voice and my pleas for mercy.
2 Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The snares of death encompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
4 Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”
5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
our God is merciful.
6 The Lord preserves the simple;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
7 Return, O my soul, to your rest;
for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
8 For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling;
9 I will walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.
10 I believed, even when[a] I spoke:
“I am greatly afflicted”;
11 I said in my alarm,
“All mankind are liars.”
12 What shall I render to the Lord
for all his benefits to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the Lord,
14 I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his saints.
16 O Lord, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.
You have loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of the Lord.
18 I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the Lord,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!