By Bethany Bell
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” - Romans 8:26
Like anything, starting can be the hardest part. You’ve found that quiet 5 minutes, sequestered yourself away, and then you sit. Your mind begins racing with all the to-do lists, honey do lists, and lists long forgotten until that exact moment. How can you commune with God when it seems impossible to even begin?
St. Paul in all of His wisdom tells us exactly what to do in Romans 8:26- “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.” So what is St. Paul telling us? He’s letting us know that we cannot pray on our own, that our first step should always be calling down the Holy Spirit to aid us in our prayers.
There are many ways to do this, it can be as simple as “Come Holy Spirit, Fire of Mercy” and include any intention you are thinking or the traditional “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.” Another one of my favorites to use is “O God, incline unto my aid; O Lord, make haste to help me” which is from Psalm 70:1 and used by St. John Cassian and his monks unceasingly. This is also the prayer you will find in the Liturgy of the Hours. Whichever prayer you use whether one here or one you feel moved to say, it is best to start any prayer this way.
Okay, so step one was to invoke the Holy Spirit to come to our aid. Now that we’ve asked Him to join us we need to get recollected or calm our mind so we can be attentive and aware of God's presence. Who better to help us get recolleted than the spouse of the Holy Spirit, Mary. Reciting the Rosary is a wonderful way to turn our hearts and minds to Christ. During Advent, meditating on the Joyful mysteries can help you build that joyful anticipation to the birth of Jesus. Another great prayer for recollection can be pulled from Holy Scripture, Luke 17:13; 18:14, 38 and is commonly referred to as the Jesus prayer. It goes “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” This simple prayer calls to mind again that we are nothing without the aid of Christ and the repetition of this prayer is similar to the Rosary as it allows us to empty ourselves so we can be filled with the Holy Spirit.
For the first week of advent I challenge everyone to find 5 minutes daily to commune with God. Begin your prayer invoking the Holy Spirit asking for aid to pray and try praying a decade of the Rosary or praying the Jesus prayer 10 times to calm your senses so you can feel His presence. If you need another decade or more repetitions of the Jesus prayer then do it. You’ll know when you are calm and open to receive God’s word. Doing this will do a couple things for you. First, you are emptying yourself (Kenosis) by acknowledging that you are dependent on the Trinity in every way including your prayer life. Second, you stop doing and allow it to be done. What I mean is you stop thinking YOU are the one preparing your heart for Advent and start realizing that the HOLY SPIRIT is the one preparing you for Advent. I pray that this week brings you peace and joy during your quiet moments with Christ. Remember to be like Mary, the Magi and St. Simeon and open your heart to the joyful anticipation of the infant Christ.