Beverley CSF, the Novice Guardian for the sisters in the European Province, writes about praying as an extravert.
To the question ‘How do I Pray?’ my immediate response is ‘with difficulty’.
The practice of praying in a religious community contains a lot of silent prayer, and books written on prayer seem to be largely written by introverts.
As an extravert I am energized by activity and by interactions with other people, I see my external environment has a potential to be holy and everything springs from this place, and it plays a vital role in how and what I pray.
I look and draw comfort from Jesus who was both extravert and introvert, he went to parties, weddings and funerals. He taught and mingled with the crowds, and at times engaged in spiritual wrangling. He was a people person, but he also knew the need for times of introversion and took himself off into the hills, or escaped into a boat to be by himself to pray to his Father.
The process of reaching a place of deep silence where I can just be with Jesus, and gaze upon him and know that he loves me, is a long process; I struggle with the corporate silent prayer times, but also know that they are a discipline for me, and I believe that in the silence I am being changed.
Activity, talking and interaction are not an optional extra for me, I pray more easily when I am doing something, so running as well as grounding me in the physical environment enables me to praise and rant at God when I need to let off steam, or when I desperately need him to answer me. In the dark times of my life, when I have not been able to feel and know his presence, then I have picked up the phone and let others pray with and for me and my situation.
Charismatic worship leads me into a greater freedom, where my heart sings and my body responds to God in dance, and in the noisy prayerful worship I suddenly find myself in the deep centre of my being and I am with Jesus.
13 years on in Community I am finding myself being able to be stiller (my sisters may not agree with me!) St Clare herself together with her sisters sat before the San Damiano crucifix every day and looked at the face of Jesus. She urged them to simply gaze, consider and contemplate him; I have found that in the looking at Christ inward and outward change and healing happen. I cling onto her experience.
A prayer I live with at the moment is from an Islamic saying:
Send down, O God, O gentle, O compassionate, into my heart, faith and tranquillity and stillness, that I may be of those whose ‘hearts are stilled by the mention of God’.