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Like a healthy diet for our bodies, Patti Armstrong explains, prayer provides nourishment for the soul.

A powerful rush of awareness filled me one day: our month-to-month budget inherent in raising a large family was a blessing keeping me unattached to the world and more attached to God. I had not asked for that moment of grace. I don’t think I was even thinking about such things, but suddenly there it was out of the blue, an insight that filled my soul and lifted me up.

Another time, when I heard the news of the death of John Lennon, a thought deeper than my usual thinking, filled me with the realization that the famous Beatle was no different than a cleaning lady now. Before God, the fame and fortune he enjoyed in this world mattered for nothing. Only his soul, laid bare, mattered.

It seems to me that such experiences come as insights as we strive to walk with the Lord through prayer. As we strengthen our prayer life, our relationship with God deepens and provides nourishment for our soul. Like a healthy diet for our bodies, proper nutrition builds us up and gives us the stamina and abilities we encounter as we go about our days.

The Catholic Church offers a divine buffet of devotions, but prayer is our starting place, according to retreat master, member of the Community of the Beatitudes and best-selling author Fr. Jacques Philippe. In several of his books, he states that prayer is the cornerstone of our relationship with God. In Time for Prayer, which is about mental prayer, Fr. Philippe dismissed the idea that anyone is too busy to pray since no one ever says they are too busy to feed their body and prayer feeds our soul. “All are called to meet God in prayer, and God gives the grace we need for the meeting,” he wrote. Fr. Philippe likens mental prayer with time spent faithfully with God.

Through prayer, he explains that our relationship with Jesus develops and deepens and he will give us what we need. “If the heart is open and God’s love is being poured out in us,” he wrote, “we need simply to surrender ourselves to that outpouring without doing anything except consent to it or else doing what the love itself prompts us to do by way of response.”

Through prayer, God has many treasures for us. “The life of prayer is the source of infinite riches,” Fr. Philippe explained. “It transforms us within, sanctifies us, heals us, helps us to know and love God, makes us fervent and generous in love of neighbor. Provided they persevere, those who commit themselves to a life of prayer can be absolutely sure of receiving all this and more. 

In his book Thirsting for Prayer, Fr. Philippe continues the journey of prayer. He stated, “Knowledge of God also gives us access to true knowledge of ourselves. We human beings can only know ourselves truly in the light of God. …We have access to our deepest identity only in the light of God, as we appear to the eyes of our Heavenly Father.”

Nourishing Our Heart

Another inspiring book, 60 Days to Becoming a Missionary Disciple by Fr. John Bartunek, has a chapter dedicated to nourishing the heart. To form a truly Christian heart, he explains, we must feed it through prayer and the sacraments. “Without a real growing life of prayer—in all of its forms, but most essentially in a daily, personal God-time—our core desire for God will always remain undernourished, and our spiritual growth will be stunted,” he wrote. “Infrequent or superficial contact with the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and confession, robs our souls of essential spiritual nutrients. Jesus made this clear so many times.”

Fr. Bartunek explained that our heart expresses itself through three modes that Jesus identified in the greatest commandment: loving God with all our soul, mind, and strength. “It means desiring him above all things and making your intimate, personal relationship with him into the highest priority of your life, the center around which every other facet of your existence finds its proper and glorious place.”

Through prayer and bringing our focus on God, Fr. Bartunek noted that putting our mind on God and prayer is the way to defeat the devil who tries to lure us into self-absorption and self-indulgence. Besides prayer and sacrifice, he suggests displaying images of Jesus and Mary and the saints, wearing a crucifix and blessed medals, holy water, stopping by the Church to make a visit and make the sign of the cross can nourish the desires our hearts.

Putting our mind on God and prayer is the way to defeat the devil who tries to lure us into self-absorption and self-indulgence. #catholicmom

Just as the old saying, “You are what you eat,” holds true for the body, so it is relevant to our heart and soul. “Jesus himself gives us a new heart when we become Christians,” Fr. Bartunek stated, “ but he leaves it up to us to make that heart grow.”

Copyright 2020 Patti Maguire Armstrong
Image: Sharon McCutcheon (2018), Pexels