Sunday, July 12, 2009


Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) wrote eloquently on prayer as God’s way of watering the garden of the soul.(1) The first and most difficult way of prayer is drawing water from a well. In this method, prayer is by the bucketful, with the heavy lifting work of ropes, pulleys and sheer muscle power to get the water out of the well and carried to the garden of the soul. The second approach to prayer is through a waterwheel system of irrigation. The initial labor of developing the structures of prayer is labor intensive. Once in place, the wheel is powered by the flow of God’s presence past the waterwheel, bringing refreshment to the soul along the piping of our structured prayer life. According to Teresa, the third way of prayer comes only to those who have been matured through the first two means. A spring bubbles forth within the soul’s garden, bringing spiritual grace into the heart of the garden. Teresa admits this to be “an even better way, because the ground is more fully soaked and it is much less work”. But, it is Teresa’s fourth way of prayer which most moves my soul. Rain. Every blade of grass in our innermost being is touched by the life giving goodness of God. In this way of prayer, God does most of the work. We merely receive. Rain falls upon our lives, like going outside in a summer rainstorm and allowing the gift of grace to shower our lives.

1. Teresa of Avila, The Life of Teresa of Jesus (New York, NY: Image Books, 1991); pp. 127-128.

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