“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (Jn. 6:44).
God the Father, through the action of the Holy Spirit within us, draws us to His Son Jesus. Such is the dynamic relationship of the Trinity with regards to our spiritual direction. There is no other way for us to approach the Lord than by the grace of the Holy Spirit shed in our hearts by the Father. And it is this movement of God that we find ourselves responding to in contemplative prayer. Because of the Father’s love for His Son, we find our hearts being drawn towards Jesus.
There is great mystery to be fathomed in this action that causes us to respond to Jesus through prayer. The Father’s love which wells up in our hearts leads us to desire Divine relationship. Through the Holy Spirit within us, the Father draws us to prayerful union with the Son He loves.
St. John of the Cross referred to the love of prayer that draws us to Jesus as a “loving infusion from God.” The Jesuit writer Thomas Green also spoke of such “infusions” in his book, Opening to God. Green describes the gift of the Father’s initiative as essential to our spiritual life. He writes,
- The invitations to contemplation are those spontaneous moments of prayer when, indeliberately, we are aware of God’s presence to us. These encounters are the very essence of prayer at every stage of our development.
God’s loving initiative invites us to yield more and more to its visitation, and to draw nearer to its Source. Having tasted the goodness of this love we seek it all the more and we patiently await its return whenever we lose the sense of God’s nearness. Like the Israelites in the desert who travelled according to the movements of the pillar of cloud, and who stopped and waited whenever the cloud stopped, we too learn to wait for the Lord’s increasing initiative in our hearts. Thomas Green describes this exchange of onus that takes place in the spiritual life as we mature.
- As we respond to God through our life of prayer and service, the time may come when God takes over more and more—when we do less and God does more. We become more and more like the clay in the hand of the potter.
Such exchange is implied in the invitation we sense to yield to God’s initiative in our hearts. It is the spiritual direction that John the Baptist recognized when he said, “He must increase, I must decrease” (Jn. 3:30). As we mature in the spiritual life, we too must learn to “decrease” in favor of God’s initiative. Here’s how Thomas Green describes it.
- From the very beginning, God’s grace is essential to any prayer, to any response of ours; but the time may come when he not only gives us the grace to seek him, but himself does the work in us. This is what is known as infused contemplation.
That the Father draws us to Jesus is to His praise. That His mercy invites and disposes us to love His Son is to our eternal blessing. That we desire because of the Holy Spirit such an increase of God’s will in our lives is what makes us more like Christ in all we do.
Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
1. How may we recognize to a greater degree that our desire for God is a gift of his grace? What hopes and encouragements are present in this reality?
2. While it’s unwise to assess our prayer based on experiences, what occasions have you known in which you were particularly aware of God’s love and presence?
3. What does it mean to yield and respond more completely to God’s work with in us? What does this yieldedness look like both in practice and in the posture of our hearts?
O God, we celebrate your mercy in drawing our hearts to you in love. We ask for your help to increasingly yield to this work of grace within us. Amen.