Prayer. Its powerful. We all have heard and read the stories about those who have had amazing things happen when engaged in deep prayer. Amazing conversions, great cures and wonderful deep seeded peace which nothing can shake. Yet, there is a lingering question for many of us, how do I pray?
St. Jane Frances de Chantal used to say, “The best method of prayer is not to have one, because prayer is not obtained by artifice but grace.”
This sounds beautiful and when I read it I thought I would feel relieved. Grace, wonderful! No technique necessary, great! There is just one problem. I still have no idea how to pray! Every time I sit or kneel down to pray the prayers slip through my fingers and all that remains are fragmented worries of life.
In my college years I had been blessed with an awesome relationship with God. Adoration was offered in three different places on campus and I frequented it often. I went to daily Mass and took theology classes. I was getting to know God and it was awesome. Prayer flowed from my heart freely like a girl to her closest friend. He was my companion when friends abandoned or misunderstood me. He was my comfort when my heart was broken. He was my soul’s friend and I was at blissful peace.
Then I graduated, got married, had kids and life shifted from having a permanent seat at church to figuring out what it meant to be the domestic church. I longed for the relationship I had lost. I no longer knew how to pray, how to be silent (without falling asleep from exhaustion) or what to say to God that would reveal my heart fully to Him and allow Him to respond in a short 2 minute period between boy squirms and the calls for dinner.
My prayers look drastically different now. It is a struggle. I spend the first two minutes trying desperately to clear my mind of the demands that are constantly on me. Then some odd form of prayer gurgles forth in something that goes like this:
“Thank you God for this day, for my kids, where are my kids? Did something just crash downstairs? They’ll be fine. At least until someone tries to take a plane. Please Lord, just give me five minutes to focus on you. Thank you for this day…do I smell a dirty diaper. Ugh, Lord, I’m trying here. I offer you all my frustration right now. I’m sorry I can’t give you more. Help me get through this day. Stop yelling at your brother!”
Not exactly the Te Deum.
In these sporadic minutes I do not feel the joy I once had speaking to our Lord. I recently picked up a small booklet called, “I wait for you” by Sister Josefa Menendez. It is all about Jesus waiting for us in the Eucharist. My heart broke reading the words of our Lord reaching out with so much love for love from my soul. Mother Theresa’s famous “I Thrist” discourse hits me in the heart every time. Jesus wants us, He wants our love, He wants to have a relationship with us. He is at every Eucharist shrouded in bread and wine with arms full of graces waiting to bestow upon our souls.
How many of us recognize our savior week after week? Even for a millisecond from the pews. I know I don’t. Yet, I know this is the equivalent a bride leaving her groom waiting at the altar. Or a bride who comes forth without looking at him, touching him, offering him her love at every second of the ceremony. I will never forget looking into the eyes of my husband on our wedding day and how I barely blinked. Joy was my oxygen. I was completely enthralled with his love for me and the gift that God had set before me. (This is something we will revisit later)
I long to look at Our Lord the same way I look at my husband.
Yet I struggle to find my footing in the few fleeting moments of my day where I have a chance to slip a “Lord help me” to my guardian angel to lay before His feet. These small cries to Him seem like nothing to me. The were like insignificant wilted roses which were meant to be something beautiful but died in their potential.
Then I picked up a copy of “Answers not Promises” by Mother Angelica. In it was a wealth of assurance with a good smack in my face.
[…]we sometimes forget that plain conversation, like thanking God for your friends, or praising him for the health of your children, is equally important. We fail to recognize that God longs to hear, in our own words, just what’s on our minds. (Mother Angelica, Answers Not Promises. 92)
Aw, great consolation for tired mamas or those in the desolation part of prayer struggling through the darkness. Prayers don’t have to always be planned or elaborate. It is okay to pray in spurts and in the midst of our anger, frustration or despair. God wants to hear the smallest detail of our day with love and excitement. Now for the smack in the face:
But God isn’t just a 911 emergency number. He wants to hear from us all the time, not just when the chips are down.
There many reasons why prayer is hard for us.
– We think it is an empty ritual instead of a real communication with God
– We only remember to pray in times of distress
-We feel distant or unworthy, as if God doesn’t have time for the little things that are important to us
-We don’t know what to say to Him
(Mother Angelica, Answers Not Promises. 92)
In the following posts I’m going to spend some time examining prayer, why we do it and the God we are praying to.