Bob Van Oosterhout

Principles of Love
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    Principles of Love and Daily Prayer

   Suggestions for Practice

Love is a living, moving force that comes from God and passes through us to the rest of creation.  The Principles of Love were derived from reflection on the components of that force as it is described in the Gospels.  These principles form a brief summary of what prepares us to allow God's love to penetrate and pass through our hearts.  Each passage of the Daily Dose of Love lists one or more Principles of Love that seem to be evident in that reading along with a brief prayer that can be repeated throughout the day.

The Principles of Love were developed to help us discern limitations in our capacity to receive and share God's love.  We become more receptive and responsive to God and each other when each of the principles is evident in our thoughts and actions.  We can compare the Principles of Love to a set of gears that allows a machine to use a single source of power to perform a complex task.  When all the gears are moving smoothly, the machine effectively carries out the job it was designed to do.  If one gear gets stuck, the machine stops.

The Gospels make it clear that our task on earth, the purpose of our creation, is to love.  But the world creates obstacles that interfere with love, much like dirt and rust block the smooth movement of gears in a machine.  The Principles of Love can help us identify obstacles to the movement of God's love through our hearts.  The Daily Prayers provide a simple, specific way to respond to this need.

We can build the Principles of Love into our spiritual practice by regularly asking "How well did I love today?"  A review of the principles can help us discern where we tend to get stuck while trying to integrate God's love into daily life. 

Each of the prayers listed in the Daily Dose of Love corresponds to one of the principles.  Think of the prayers as a lubricant that helps open our heart and free us to accept the power of God's love so that it flows through us to the rest of creation.  The Daily Prayer was designed to be repeated throughout the day whenever our mind is not occupied.  Each prayer contains a simple rhythm that allows it to be said silently as we breathe (first line as we breathe in, second line as we breathe out) or carry out regular activities.  Repeating the Daily Prayer that corresponds to a Principle of Love that we are struggling to follow helps us to be aware of obstacles that interfere with the flow of God's love through our hearts.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of opportunities to use these prayers in daily life.  We can slowly repeat one of them while washing our hands, getting dressed, doing household chores, or driving.  They can become part of any repetitive task or regular movement, and are particularly effective when walking, running, or exercising.  It is not difficult to establish habits and routines where we are able to say one of these prayers hundreds or even thousands of times per day.  It is an effective way to respond to Jesus' command to "Pray always."

There is also a practical benefit to using the Daily Prayer.  We tend to dwell on what's wrong when there is stress or tension in our lives.  This kind of thinking increases tension, which limits our receptivity and openness as it pulls us to focus even more narrowly on the problems in our lives.  The result is an escalating cycle where we become increasingly tense and worried.

Repeating one of the Daily Prayers refocuses our mind on what we need from God as it breaks up mental habits that build stress and tension.  As the prayer is repeated, we spend less time dwelling on negativity.  They can be particularly helpful during times of pain when focusing on discomfort increases its intensity.  When our minds are regularly focused on God, habits of worry diminish, much as a seldom-used path through a field grows over and disappears.  As the Daily Prayers become more entrenched in our minds, it becomes easier to call on one of them whenever we feel troubled or stuck.

Distractions and old habits will interrupt the Daily Prayer, especially when we first begin to practice.  This is to be expected.  When we recognize that our thoughts are elsewhere, we simply label whatever we were thinking about as a "distraction" and return to the quiet repetition of the prayer.  Each time we are distracted and return to the prayer we are training our mind to let go of diversions and focus on what we need from God.  The mental discipline that results from regular practice with the Daily Prayer is an invaluable tool that helps us focus on what is most important in any situation.

Using the Principles of Love and Daily Prayer in a regular maintenance program can help to keep the parts of love moving together so that we are more able to integrate God's love into our daily lives.

The Daily Dose of Love includes an index of Principles and Prayers, which identifies the Gospel passages where each principle was evident and the dates each prayer was recommended.  (The first principle listed corresponds to the prayer for that day.)  Reflecting on one or more of these gospel passages can help us to see how Jesus applied that principle during his time on earth.

It is best to choose only one Principle and Daily prayer for each day, especially at the beginning of practice.  This allows awareness of the principle and the prayer to become more fully integrated into daily life. With regular practice, the Principles, Daily Prayers and God's love can become an increasing part of our life and interactions as we open our hearts to God and each other.

Principle

Description

Daily Prayer

Nature

Love is our true nature.

We were created

From God's love

Unity

Love unites and connects us with all of creation.

Bring us together

In your love

Humility

Humility is a prerequisite to love.

Help us be humble

So we may love

Opening

Love is a process of receptive opening.

Open our hearts

To your love

Acceptance

Love requires acceptance.

Not my will

But yours be done

Compassion

Love involves compassion, care and concern for all of creation.

Open our hearts

To your creation

Decision

Love is a conscious decision.

Help us always

To choose love

Commitment

Love involves a deepening commitment to fulfilling the potential of another.

Help us to love

When our will is weak

Vision

Love leads to vision that is clearer and more complete.

Open our eyes

To deepen our love

Forgiveness

Love involves forgiveness.

Lord, Jesus Christ

Have mercy on us

Suffering

Suffering deepens our capacity to love.

Use our pain

To deepen our love

Learning

Love is an everlasting learning process.

Open our hearts and minds

To your love and wisdom