|Interview With Author Father Jacques Philippe
By Carrie Gress
ROME, 10 JULY 2008 (ZENIT)
Interior prayer is not a technique, but an attitude of love that
makes our sacramental life more fruitful, says author Father Jacques
Father Philippe, of the Community of the Beatitudes, is the author of
"Time for God" published by Scepter Publishing, which is also available
in French and Spanish.
In this interview with ZENIT, Father Philippe discusses the simple
precepts of interior prayer, common misconceptions and the fruit that
can be expected when added to the sacramental life.
Q: You describe mental prayer or interior prayer as something that
does not involve technique. How, then, does it work?
Father Philippe: It would be better to say interior prayer instead of
mental prayer, because in our modern culture, the word "mental" is
associated with thoughts
as something cerebral
whereas this form of prayer is more an affair of the heart, instead of
reflection. St. Teresa of Avila said that it is not an act of thinking
much, but of loving much.
Interior prayer is not a question of technique. It is not a process
that can be controlled because it is a meeting with God, who infinitely
surpasses anything we can achieve through our own efforts.
What must be essentially understood is that there is no method, but
an interior attitude. For interior prayer, there are three principles: a
true desire for God; the confidence that God will allow us find that
which we are looking for; and finally, humility: To accept our poverty
and to wait for the goodness and love of God in all things.
Q: What is the fruit of interior prayer? And why is it important?
Isn't adherence to the sacraments enough?
Father Philippe: Interior prayer permits the sacramental life to be
more fruitful, more alive, more intense. It is important because it is
there that we see and endlessly deepen the most essential dimension of
Christian life: the personal relationship of trust and love that is
established between God and each of his children, the reciprocal
exchange where we give ourselves to God and where God gives himself to
us. According to Pope John Paul II in "Novo Millenio Ineunte," this
reciprocity is "the very substance and soul of the Christian life, and
the condition of all true pastoral life."
Q: How does mental prayer differ from those who would wish to compare
it to yoga or Buddhist practices?
Father Philippe: The fundamental difference is that it is a question
of living and deepening the relationship of one person to another with
God, and it is not solely to acquire the power to practice an interior
or psychic state. The possibility of this interpersonal relationship is
not founded on initiative or skill, but on God's desire to reveal
himself and to communicate through love. Moreover, God acts within the
Holy Trinity revealed in the New Testament: Through Jesus and thanks to
the action of the Holy Spirit, we can enter into communion with the
Q: You describe mental prayer as "just spending time" with God, like
two people in love would, but this can often feel like nothing is
happening. Could something be happening interiorly despite the feeling
that there isn't? Or even during times when one is distracted?
Father Philippe: The life of prayer is much deeper than the
intelligence or the senses can perceive. Even when prayer is poor and
distracted, provided that it is made with sincerity and faith, God can
communicate secretly with the soul. He puts into it the treasures of
light and the power of peace that is often made manifest at other times
in life instead of just during prayer itself. And if one perseveres
despite times of aridity, there will always be moments when God visits
and makes his presence felt.
Q: In today's world, many people just don't seem to have time to
spend half an hour or an hour in silent prayer. How can it be fit in?
Does it always have to be practiced in a church?
Father Philippe: When one activity is considered vital, we find time
to do it. The fundamental question is "what are our priorities?" We must
be convinced that God will give us a hundred-fold the time that we
devote to him in prayer. If we give part of our time to God with
fidelity and perseverance, even just a quarter of an hour ever day, our
life will be more peaceful and more fruitful.
We can pray at a church, as there is a lot of grace when praying in
the presence of the Holy Sacrament, but we can also pray in a corner of
our room in front of an icon, out in nature, or even on the bus or the
Q: Many people only want to pray when they have an interior prompting
to do so. Why is this not helpful both in prayer and in arriving at true
Father Philippe: All love relationships need, in order to grow, a
choice for fidelity. If a husband loves his wife only when he feels the
spirit to do so, the relationship will remain superficial, on only an
emotional level. Fidelity and perseverance allow love to move beyond
merely the sentimental and to become something very beautiful and rich,
a life shared, a mutual gift of persons, one to another.
In every love relationship there are times of crisis and difficulty,
but if we persevere with fidelity, the love will become stronger and
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