Mystical Christianity: Rituals and Spiritual Practice II
The Value of Prayers
The ritual prayer has been a primary Spiritual Practice in every spiritual or religious training. Master Jesus points out that the real prayer practitioner should avoid a mechanical prayer with repetition, instead one must engage the energies of the heart, and activating the words with the power of Intention.
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.”
In this statement, was the Master Jesus disregarding the values of the Mantrams? No, not necessarily, since the tonal work and vibration of words were well-known subjects of the Hebrews rituals: just keep in mind the circumstances that involved Joshua, his army and the walls of Jericho.
To his disciples, he taught the “Our Father,” the “Pater Noster,” prayer as an expression of devotion and commitment to life. The great Carmelite mystic Theresa of Avila wrote in her work about the inner castle and its mansions. In this incredible volume, she wrote about the seven different types of prayers and their levels of spiritual realization: the first level being the mechanical prayer, used as a centering and focusing technique, and the higher ones involving the ageless practice of contemplation.
The Spiritual practice of meditation is presented in the Bible in a very subtle way. The Master Jesus declares that one should not follow the current practice of the hypocrites of the temple that go to public places to be seen as holy when they are practicing their internal prayers. He advises his followers to do such a practice in private.
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
~ Matthew 6, 6
What is presented here as an external nature, the room, actually refers to something internal, your heart! One should retreat to the sacred room of one’s heart, close the doors to external disturbances and worldly perceptions, and allow our consciousness to be fully connected with the Divine Essence. This practice is the equivalent of the eight steps of the yoga of Patanjali, the interior retreat, or pratyahara.
To pray in secrecy to the heavenly Father means to practice absolute silence, without words and thoughts. This is not new to the monastic community. It is called contemplation. With the quieting of the mind, one can create the condition for the pure Light of our Higher Self to travel downward to the center of the brain and engrave a superior knowledge in the center of one’s sacred heart. This is the reward that comes from the heavenly Father which the Master mentioned.
Mystics of different time periods practiced contemplative meditation. The descriptions given by Theresa D’Avila are very revealing, and so are the writings of John of the Cross. They both describe the transition between the practices of sentimental devotion and the stage of perfect intimacy with God.
When a soul no longer feels realized through the traditional devotional practices, it naturally feels inclined to reach another level of “knowing” the Divine. This is the starting point for an expansion of the relationship with the “father” in heaven: the Soul abandons the old practices and gives itself to the Divinity, completely, without demands and in complete silence.