At various points throughout this website, we have referred to the centrality of your relationship with God as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. We have noted that this relationship finds its context within the Body of Christ, through which we are introduced to the teachings of Jesus Christ and guided in their application to our lives today.
We are called to be people of prayer. By this, we do not just mean that we are to find the time to ‘say prayers’, although that has its place too. Instead, we are to take seriously the invitation to enter more fully into the relationship that is at the heart of our faith. We are to have hearts that seek to engage with and respond to God. Learning to do this takes time, discipline and perseverance. As we enter into a life of prayer, we discover that prayer is not so much about ‘getting God to do stuff’ as it is about offering our very selves to God that we might become the means through which God can reach out to the world in which we live and work. You are to be God’s voice, God’s hands and God’s heart to a world in need. When people encounter you, they are to encounter Jesus Christ. The only way that that can become remotely possible is if we allow Jesus Christ to work in and through us. We are to be men and women of prayer.
Living in response to the vocation that God has for us can be a daunting prospect. As discussed in the entries related to ‘mission’ on this website, living our faith in the world is not always straightforward, and can often leave us feeling lonely and exposed. Our lives are to proclaim the presence of Jesus Christ in a world that is at best indifferent and may even be increasingly antagonistic, to that presence. There is only one way that we will be able to manage it: by the grace of God.
This is where the life of the sacraments and your personal prayer come in. The life of the sacraments is provided for us by virtue of belonging to the Church. Each week we hear the words of Jesus Christ and are nourished by his flesh and blood. As appropriate, we partake of the Sacrament of Reconciliation to ask for the healing that we need. We do these things, not because someone a long time ago told us that we have to, but because our mission as baptised members of the Body of Christ makes it imperative that we are taught, fed and healed by Jesus Christ in this way.
Taking the time to pray is the second element. This is more than each of us ‘talking to God.’ Rather, we must learn to allow God to speak to us. To do this, we must learn how it is that God communicates. It takes time. We must become sensitive to the insights, intuitions, desires and experiences we have in prayer.
It was after seeing Jesus at prayer that the disciples thought to ask him to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1 and following). They saw in him something that they wished for themselves. The witness value of your relationship with God is not to be underestimated.
You may already have a well-established prayer routine. If what you are doing works for you, it is suggested you do not begin by changing it. However, if you are aware of a desire for something ‘more’ and you are not quite sure how to proceed, listen to that desire. It is the Holy Spirit whispering in your heart, calling you forward.
Ideally, you will find at least 10-15 minutes each day to pray and to contemplate. If at all possible, find a quiet place where there will be no interruptions. You might like to light a candle, play some soft music, and dim the lights. If that is not practical, sit quietly for a minute or two and reverentially make the sign of the cross as many times as you need to still your heart and mind. Do not worry if you don’t find this easy to do: keep at it.
Having found a degree of focus, you might like to read a Scriptural text that appeals to you. You might read it through more than once. Pay attention to what it means for you. It may be that your own thoughts, and how they guide your prayer, become the focus for your prayer time that day. That is good. If not, move on to another passage. Stop at any point where you find something that touches your heart. It isn’t a question of getting through as much as you can. Instead, it’s about preparing your heart to speak to God. Once you become aware of God’s presence, stop and talk to him. If you find yourself getting distracted while doing this, pick up where you’d left off and gently try again.
If on a particular day you cannot find the time to pray, do not fret about it. Just do what you can and pick up where you left off at the next opportunity. Be aware that, with your busy life, you may have to be creative with finding your prayer time. Your mornings may be too hectic as you get the kids ready for school and in the evenings you may be too tired. You need to pay attention to the reality of your circumstances. Each person will find his or her way to deal with this, often after a period of trial and error.
Learning to wait and listen
We would do well to contemplate the man who is the symbol for all those engaged in the Christian spiritual life: the blind beggar (Mark 10:46 and following). It speaks with accuracy of the human experience of God. Like Bartimaeus, we start by waiting and listening. We still ourselves and we pay attention. We are waiting for Christ to go past. It can happen quickly, or it can take a while. It doesn’t matter either way because we’re learning what we need to learn – that our hope is in him.
When we hear Christ’s steps, we call out to him with all our might. We let nothing get in our way. There is an urgency to our quest. As we waited, we’ve become acutely aware of our need, and we know that only God can help us. We no longer place our hope in anything that is not God.
We acknowledge that we are blind and that only Jesus can restore our sight. Experiencing the depth of our blindness is an integral part of the Christian spiritual life. It does not matter how holy, how intelligent, or how experienced each of us is in the ways of our faith; when it comes to seeing and understanding God we are all sitting on the side of the road waiting to be shown. We are all beggars before God (Catechism: 2559).
* For more, see Bishop Robert Barron on prayer.
Original text by Shane Dwyer
Labyrinth photo by Ashley Batz on Unsplash
Fr Anthony Mellor, 30 October 2019
Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane, 30 October 2019
30 October 2019