Prayer is not just a head game. One of the real dangers in our prayer lives is that our meditation stays on the level of the intellect and does not permeate the entirety of our human nature. When we pray, we are called to pray with the totality of our inner resources. Our physical senses, our emotions, and our imagination all have a role to play in our prayer life. We must learn to integrate all aspects of our experience into our meditation, allowing the Spirit to guide and direct how we interpret such experience.
Our emotional life is often unbalanced. This is natural at first. Like our thoughts and desires, our emotions need education and guidance. The main way that this education takes place is meditation. In meditation, we learn to discern the contours of our emotional life and we discover both the disorders and the moments of inspiration. As we grow aware of the rhythm of this inner cycle, we learn to master and guide its subtle language, not through repression and control, but rather through gentleness and suggestion.
After discursive meditation, the tradition distinguishes what is called affective prayer. The idea is relatively simple. Discursive meditation leads to a prayer life in which our affections for our Lord, our Blessed Mother, and the Saints are heightened and awakened. This is the end towards which our emotions are created, to allow us to enter into communion with God. Prayer will often stir many different kinds of emotions. These can be pleasant and consoling or difficult and fearsome. Prayer is not simply about doing what makes us feel good, but rather having the courage to face our interior life without pretense.
Affective prayer teaches us to allow ourselves to pray with our emotions. If we are angry or hurt, we learn to allow our emotions to pour out to the Lord. If we are on fire with love, we let ourselves savor the sweetness that such love produces in the soul. If we are struggling with our sexuality and the desires of our body, we allow ourselves to bring these inner drives before the Lord with perfect surrender. Affective prayer teaches that everything we are experiencing must be brought before the Lord in an attitude of complete openness.
So the question becomes, what are you feeling today? Once you are in touch with what you are feeling, you then must bring them before the Lord and listen to what he wants to say. A simple way to do this is to present the emotion to the Lord and imagine what he might say to you. Throughout all of this, one should not be afraid of the emotion. Rather, we should allow ourselves to see our emotions for what they are in complete honesty. Although not an infallible guide, when coupled with discernment, this can be a powerful tool to experience healing and freedom.