Each morning I start my day with three things: a shower, St. Patrick’s Lorica prayer, and reading the day’s Mass readings and a meditation on them. I don’t function well without the shower first. When I skip the prayer and Scriptures, the morning might go alright but the rest of the day seems to fall apart. Starting my day with God and His Word, that’s the anchor of my day. On the days when I set it aside and go about my business without paying heed to the Lord, in the back of my mind I know I’ve done myself a disservice. Pride can rationalize so many things, including excusing myself from prayer, but it can’t truly silence the Holy Spirit who dwells in me.
Yesterday morning the meditation was on the first reading, from Isaiah, and it closed with a little prayer. The words of the prayer were simple enough yet they stopped me in my tracks. “Increase my perception of your power, of your plan…” That phrase has been sounding in my ears since I read it. “Increase my perception…” Not speak louder, Lord, or move in bigger ways, or give me more knowledge of your plans, or be clearer in your guidance. Increase my perception; I feel like someone has physically turned me to look upon the same horizon from a new direction.
For one, this perspective on the “I need to know You’re near and You’re active in my life” prayer has me breathing a long sigh of relief. Like standing in a cool, steady shower after weeks of heat, I am fortified. The question of whether He’s near, whether He’s moving and acting and working and blessing – that question isn’t even necessary. It’s a matter of perceiving God – standing in the stronghold of confidence in Him, awakening my senses to Him.
For another, it casts a light on something I must face. To perceive another’s nearness or handiwork, without them announcing it, requires a great deal of familiarity. I can’t recognize one of Bach’s “Unacccompanied Cello Suites” used in a television commercial if I haven’t listened carefully to those compositions again and again. I can’t see a small painting and know it’s a detail of a Monet if I haven’t already looked upon the larger work of art. I can’t hear the influence of St. Thomas Aquinas in my friend’s discussions if I haven’t had at least a bit of experience with his work myself. The correlation between perception of the Lord and familiarity with Him is indisputable. And my familiarity with the Lord – not so much knowledge of Him or a personal history of experiences but ‘in the present’ intimacy – is not what it once was. As I consider my perception of His presence and movements, I know this is true. Faced with this admission, I found myself at the Eucharistic chapel at 10 o’clock last night. I just needed to be near Him. As I sat before my Savior, I thought about how amazingly easy it used to be to perceive His closeness, notice His movements, hear His voice, detect His guiding hand, rest in His protection… I could blame plenty of things in the last several years for robbing me of that intimacy, and while they all might rightfully carry a share of that blame I know that ultimately I didn’t fight for it.
I feel like I’m fighting now. My senses are heightened. The prayer, “Lord, increase my perception of You,” is repeated. This morning I found myself praying differently than I have for months, maybe even years. Lord, grant me the grace I need for today; the grace for the spiritual battle of today; the protection I need today; the mercy I require today; the clarity I need today; the wisdom for living today; the faith, hope and love in order to believe, trust and serve the way You call me to today. Lord, increase my perception of You today. Not Your plan for my future, not the blessings I’m looking for ‘someday’ but only what You are doing, how you are guiding, what you are asking of me here and now.