praying handsWritten by: Patricia Everaert

The Carmelite saints are near and dear to my heart, particularly John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and Theresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein).

The Carmelite order gets its name from Mount Carmel, in the Holy Land, and its tradition of contemplative life from the prophet Elijah.

Eight centuries before Christ, God performed a miracle on Mount Carmel, through the prophet Elijah. The people had grown lukewarm and began to worship Baal. Elijah challenged the priests of Baal to prepare a sacrifice and pray to their god to set it alight. Elijah did the same, going further by dousing his with 12 jars of water. When he prayed to the Lord, his prayer was answered, and his sacrifice was consumed in flame.

Reading the account of those events in 1 Kings 18, the obvious miracle was the One True God hearing the prayer of His prophet, and burning the water-drenched sacrifice. According to Adrienne von Speyr (in her book ‘Elijah’), there is another miracle of Mount Carmel: prayer. After witnessing God’s faithfulness to Elijah, they were reawakened in spirit and returned their devotion to God. They began to pray to God once more.

Prayer – a miracle given to every believer – puts an end to unbelief and ‘lukewarmness’. Prayer is a vehicle for union with God because through the dialogue of prayer we are drawn closer to the beloved. Scripture urges us to pray continually (1 Thes. 5:17) which sounds daunting if we think of prayer as only sitting still, recollected, reciting formal prayers, or focused on meditations. That sort of prayer is good and necessary – we should strive to spend time like that each day – but for those of us outside the cloister walls, impossible to sustain ‘without ceasing’.

Prayer is also a disposition, an inward turning of the heart and the will to God. The Little Flower describes prayer as “a surge of the heart […] a look turned toward heaven.” To St. Teresa of Avila, prayer is life before it is an exercise, a dimension of being before it is an experience. So, if we are inwardly disposed to God and make an offering of our day, we are, in effect, praying continually.

To be in continual dialogue with our Creator… isn’t that miraculous?

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