The First Key of Prayer

“True prayer, like true love, is a decision, not a feeling.”

Abbot Jerome Kodell, OSB, “Twelve Keys of Prayer,” in Prayer of the Hours, pp. 231-2

To the Neophytes

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

Today, at the conclusion of the Easter octave, we heard this beautiful entrance antiphon: “Quasi modo geniti infantes…” “Like newborn children, cry out for the clean and pure milk of the spirit!” (1 Peter 2:2). You, my dear brothers and sisters, are those children, who eight days ago emerged from the fount of Baptism as newborn sons and daughters of God. For eight days, we have rejoiced in calling you fellow members of God’s family, the Church! Now it is our task to teach you something of what it means to live this new life in Christ. 

St. Peter has taught us the first and most essential lesson: “Cry out for the clean and pure milk of the spirit!” What is this “spiritual milk” but the grace of the Risen Lord? And how do we cry out for it but by prayer? Little children do not hesitate to cry out to their parents in every need. If they are hungry, thirsty, tired, lonely, sad, or afflicted in any way whatsoever, they naturally cry out for Mommy or Daddy to fix it! 

Crying out is a necessity, not just for newborns and neophytes, but for all who would like to “change and become like little children” (Matthew 18:3)—and all of us must do this if we want to enter into the kingdom of Heaven! Therefore, like little children, cry out to the Lord in every need. Set aside moments of prayer throughout your day to lift your heart to Him, to pour out your heart to God, with all of your experiences, pains, desires, hopes and joys. 

However, there are two truths you must remember. First, “true prayer, like true love, is a decision, not a feeling.” You may go to your prayer and feel that nothing changes. Very well! Feelings come and go. What is important is that you choose to pray and remain faithful to your commitment, continuing to come to Him with childlike simplicity even when it feels dry and God seems far away. It is in the dryness and absence that the gold of faith and trust is forged. 

Second, we do not “‘use’ prayer to deal with crises or passing desires.” The point of prayer is to be with God, “to be alone with Him who we know loves us” (St. Teresa). Like any relationship of love, the point is not what we get out of it. On any given day, prayer may make us feel better, or it may not, just as the company of a friend (or spouse!) may delight us one day and annoy us the next. However you feel, simply tell the Lord about your distress and leave it in His hands. His solution may not look like what we would have planned or designed for ourselves, but isn’t that often the way with children? He knows how to deal with our crises better than we do.  Our part is to cry out … and leave the rest to Him.

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