Contemplative prayer is like striking a tuning fork. All you can really do in the spiritual life is resonate to the true pitch, to receive the always-present message. Once you are tuned, you will receive, and it has nothing to do with worthiness or the group you belong to, but only inner resonance, a capacity for mutuality (see Matthew 7:7-11), which implies a basic humility. We must begin with the knowledge that the Sender is absolutely and always present and broadcasting; the only change is with the receiver station, you and me.
Prayer is connecting with God/Ultimate Reality. It is not an attempt to change God’s mind about us or about events. Such arrogance is what unbelievers make fun of—and often rightly so. Prayer is primarily about changing our own mind so that things like infinity, mystery, and forgiveness can resound within us. The small mind cannot see great things because the two are on different frequencies or channels. We must match our resonance to Love’s. Like knows like.
Without contemplation, the best you can do is to know by comparison, calculation, and from the limited viewpoint of “you.” Prayer knows reality in a totally different way. Instead of presenting a guarded self to the moment, prayer stops defending or promoting its ideas and feelings, and waits for, expects, and receives guidance from Another. It offers itself naked to the now, so that our inner and aroused lover can meet the Lover. Such prayer takes major surgery of heart, mind, and inner sight. Prayer is about changing you, not about changing God.
Most simply put, prayer is something that happens to you (Romans 8:26-27), much more than anything you privately do. It is an allowing of the Big Self more than an assertion of the small self. Eventually you will find yourself preferring to say, “Prayer happened, and I was there” more than “I prayed today.” All you know is that you are being led, guided, loved, used, and prayed through. You are no longer in the driver’s seat. Following this guidance, you will know what is yours to do.
God stops being an object of attention like any other object in the world, and becomes at some level your own “I Am.” You start knowing through, with, and in Somebody Else. And then your little “I Am” becomes “We Are.” Afterward you know instinctively that your life is not about you, but you are about Life. “I live now not I, but Another Life lives in me,” to paraphrase Paul’s poetic words (Galatians 2:20).
This does not mean you are morally or psychologically perfect. Not at all. But you will now have the freedom to recognize your failings and to grow and love better because of them. That is the major and important difference!
~Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2009), 101-104.