Prayer is more than talking to God, but more specifically the opening of our heart and mind to God, Cardinal George Pell wrote in a reflection on prayer for his weekly newspaper column.
In an essay in The Sunday Telegraph of Sydney, the cardinal emphasized that prayer “is not someone talking to himself.” While most people think of prayer as “talking to God,” Cardinal Pell noted that words can be “a cover or a distraction, while our mind races along elsewhere.”
“More accurately prayer is opening our heart and mind to God, that Mystery of Love, Creator of the universe, who exists outside space and time,” wrote the Archbishop of Sydney.
He went on to show how people can encounter God in “the strangest ways,” recounting how a woman without any religious allegiance told him she sometimes goes to Sydney’s St. Mary’s Cathedral simply to sit quietly.
Cardinal Pell also told a story from Caryll Houselander, an English poet who was “a master of the spiritual life.” At the request of a doctor, once a week Houselander visited a young woman affected by a terrible nervous disease, attacks of St. Vitius’ dance and violent palpitations.
“She was only getting worse, and had no religion. Her vague notions of God frightened and upset her,” the cardinal wrote.
Houselander gave the woman a rosary, not telling her to recite the customary prayers but to use her own prayers or say nothing at all.
“More importantly the young woman was told to imagine that she was holding onto God,” Pell continued. He reported that from then on the ailing woman began to improve, escaping much of her suffering and “blossoming into an expansive and loving person.”
The prelate’s column also noted that women traditionally tend to be more religious than men, but he worried this could be different in contemporary Australia where natural sex differences are ignored and women are urged to achieve like men.
“It would be a pity if fewer and fewer women were encouraging their husbands and sons to pray,” he commented.
Cardinal Pell recalled that Jesus taught His disciples the “Our Father” when they asked him how to pray. He reported that his future columns in Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph will examine “this most famous prayer.”