Oh come to the water all you who are thirsty, Come to me and listen to my words, hear me and you shall have life. (Isaiah 55:3).
WE have started out on these short meditations on prayer by underlining the need for simplicity, because it is simplicity that provides us with a short cut on the spiritual journey. If we reflect on the words of scripture above (the words that arc read out during the Easter Vigil) and compare them with Jesus' own words in John 8, "if you make my word your home, you will learn the truth and the truth will make you free", we have all the instructions we need to set out on that journey of faith which is prayer.
Hear! Listen! The words echo through the scriptures. If we want to know God, to receive the life he longs to give us, we must find the time in our lives to listen: we must learn to listen not just with our ears but with our hearts.
God, we have to remember, alone is our spiritual director and guide, and our role is one of receptivity. In the Old Testament conversion (or a decision for God) is likened to circumcision of the heart — as though a hairline crack were being formed in my deepest centre which begins to open me up to receptivity. Then, if I am prepared to find time to listen to the word of God, my capacity to listen with the heart will grow at ever-deepening levels.
In the process of this gradual awakening to the living presence of God in his Word, I will discover the truth of the Book of Revelation: "If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and share his meal side by side".
The same idea — that the word of God renders our own striving unnecessary — occurs in the Old Testament too. "No, the word is very near to you" it says in Deuteronomy (30). "It is in your mouth and in your heart for your observance". We don't have to wonder how we are going to climb to heaven, or cross oceans, to find it. St Augustine, in his own awakening, expressed the truth of it like this: "For behold you were within me and I outside . you were with me but I was not with you".
The disciples on the road to Emmaeus did not recognise thcir side-by-side companion, but they did listen to him as he explained the scriptures. When they finally recognised him, then they understood how all the time "their hearts had burned within them".
Simply by listening to the word, they had been awakened to their desire for God who dwells within. This is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that Jesus referred to when he said to his disciples "You know him because He is with you, He is in you".
Can we be simple enough to believe? We have the witness of others who believed in this simplicity: St Therese of Liseiux desired to go the whole way with God and become a saint, but she also accepted her own human limitations. If it was to happen, then only God could bring it about. Instead of trying to climb the steep slope to the spiritual SUMMir purely by her own efforts, she asked God to provide her with a lift! In other words, if she was going to get,