St. Teresa of Avila – On Prayer
“Contemplative prayer [oración mental] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.”
St. Teresa of Avila is considered an expert on prayer. In her many writings, she describes a four step process of growth in prayer, beginning with mental prayer and culminating in deep mystical experiences. Her writings are based on her personal experience and are deeply insightful.
Most of us pray on the first level, that of mental prayer. This is the type of prayer described in the above quotation. In this stage, prayer is a question of consciously choosing to pay attention and spend time with God, remembering and meditating on the love of God as seen through the life of Christ and His passion. This level of the journey of prayer requires our choice and active participation. God is there waiting for us to come calling, but God will not force us to stop and spend time in the divine company.
The good news is that prayer in this sense does not require hours of preparation nor does it remove the one who prays from the surrounding world. It’s wonderful when it’s possible to retreat to a place of solitude and spend time with the Lord, but when responsiblities of life and work don’t permit more than a few minutes of alone time, one can still speak with the Lord quietly in thanks or to ask for help. That’s one of the things I’ve always loved about St. Teresa of Avila, she was very practical about prayer opportunities. As I stand with my hands in the dish water every evening, I remember her advice to one of her sisters: “God can be found even among the stew pots of the kitchen.”
Today as we celebrate her feast, may we remember to give thanks for the gifts God gave her and the insights she shared with us about God’s love. Let’s especially be grateful that our relationship with God is to be that of a close friend with whom we look forward to spending a few minutes of our time.