St Francis of Assisi: Intimacy through Prayer
To Francis, being with Christ was a love affair. When referring to his relationship with God, he called himself "a spouse of the Holy Spirit." To cultivate his intimacy with the Divine, he often retreated to remote places to pray and contemplate alone with God. He loved being alone with His Father so much that, at times, he was torn between devoting himself completely to the contemplative instead of the active life.
Prayer was his chief comfort. It was Francis' starting place, his source of strength in faith. God was his refuge on whom he could cast all of his cares and burdens. He was completely dependent on the Lord, and he understood that progress in God's service was futile without prayer. In fact, he placed prayer at the highest pinnacle of all of the spiritual exercises and used every means to have his friars concentrate on it. He eagerly sought to pray to God without ceasing, to keep his soul always in the presence of God. Bonaventure witnesses:
“Prayer was his sure refuge in everything he did; he never relied on his own efforts, but put his trust in God's loving providence and cast the burden of his cares on him in insistent prayer. He was convinced that the grace of prayer was something a religious should long for above all else. No one, he declared, could make progress in God's service without it.”
And, Francis' prayers were not detached or antiseptic requests, but instead his prayers were often passionate and cries from the soul. Bonaventure writes:
“Francis would make the groves re-echo with his sighs and bedew the ground with his tears, as he beat his breast and conversed intimately with his Lord in hidden secrecy. Here he defended himself before his Judge; here he spoke with his Lover.”
Intimacy with God was the foremost priority for Francis, being in love with the One who loved him first.
The busy ministers of the modern age could learn much through Francis' example. His priorities were in line with the will of God. He placed his relationship with the Savior as his foremost concern, above ministry strategies and scholastic exercises. As a man whom God used to bring widespread renewal to the Christian faith, he desired most of all to be at the feet of his Father, seeking intimacy, guidance and nourishment through solitary prayer.Excerpt from James Choung’s article (warning: do not press "Get PDF" button and log in as it is trying to access your email contacts) "Spiritual Practices of St. Francis of Assisi"