Thursday, November 4, 2010

Say Hello to Teresa

As I continue my early November blogs in honor of All Saints’ Day, say hello to Teresa of Ávila. Teresa was from Spain and lived in the 16th century. From her earliest years, spurred on by her mother, she had a deep devotion to Christ. At seven years old she tried to run away with her brother Rodrigo to find martyrdom among the Moors. Her grandfather, who was returning to the city, found both of them outside the city walls and made them go back home. But Teresa’s devotion never wavered. She continued to grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.

In her adult years she founded a reformed Carmelite convent. She also experienced trials and illnesses that God used to deepen her prayer life and commitment to Christ. Teresa wrote much poetry and prose during her days—some of her best writing growing out of her troubles. Her writings reflected her life of prayer as well as her devotion to Jesus. Here’s an excerpt:

Let nothing trouble you
Let nothing make you afraid
All things pass away
God never changes.
Patience obtains everything.
God alone is enough.

Here’s my favorite Teresa story: she was traveling all over Spain by oxcart on bad roads in her efforts to reform Carmelite convents. One day she was thrown from her cart into a muddy stream. She shook her fist at God, “God,” she said, “if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you don’t have many.” I suspect God got a kick out of that. What a great lesson in prayer: Teresa reminds us we can talk with God about anything at anytime. She reminds us that prayer is not about results; it’s about relationship—a mutual relationship between God and His child, a relationship in which we can speak openly and honestly with God when it sounds pleasant and even when it doesn’t. Lloyd John Ogilvie once referred to prayer as "cumulative friendship with God." That is a perfect description of Teresa's prayers.

That's why Teresa inspires my prayer life. Knowing her leads me to ask myself some questions about my prayers: Are they open? Are they honest? Are they born out of a deep devotion to and friendship with God? Teresa’s prayers were. I hope mine are. And I encourage you to make yours this way too.

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