May 11, 2013

OFS Prayer Life

Is an active prayer life important to proper formation as a Secular Franciscan? No, it is not important … it is critical! Without a purposeful and active prayer life the material used for formation becomes only a collection of trivia about St Francis of Assisi.  Being formed as a Secular Franciscan only happens when we put our heart and soul into progressing in Franciscan Spirituality, and this only can happen by willfully developing a serious prayer life. In short Formation isn't something that you receive from someone else. Formation as a Secular Franciscan is a self driven process that may be aided by a second person or organization, but to become “formed” takes personal effort
St Francis is our model for working toward holiness. He spent a good deal of his time in prayer.  We know that he would rise early in the morning to pray. Like Jesus he would find quiet time alone to talk to God.  Francis took the Gospel message to pray always to near perfection. He meditated on the beauty of God’s creation of both living and non-living and saw God in it and marveled over His glory. His life was turning prayer into action. He did not just love the poor; he made prayer an action by giving away his cloak or by cleaning the wounds of a leper. His life was one long prayer of knowing, loving and serving God.

His life did not start out that way. We have his example of developing his life around prayer over time; one conversion at a time trusting in Jesus and following Him as he was led from one step to the next. His progress was clear. As a child he probably prayed as a child does. As an adult he prayed and allowed himself to grow to deeper prayer. He prayed the scriptures and let it change his life. He found he grew closer to God through meditation on the wonders of creation. Over time his prayer became contemplative. Before he died he would enter into spiritual ecstasy and even desired to suffer the wounds of Jesus giving himself completely to Him.

So, as Secular Franciscans we need to ask ourselves about our own prayer life. St Paul said that as a child he thought as a child. Do we find ourselves praying as we did as a child? If our prayer life is getting too routine or dry we should look into imitating Francis and deepen our prayer life to include adult levels like praying the scriptures, meditation, contemplation and even “action prayer”.  This is the best way to achieve ongoing Formation in the manner of our spiritual father Francis.