One takeaway from my retreat last week was a way to pray. I wish I had included it in my book Praying on Empty! It’s very simple, though not as simple as praying a mantra (repeating a word, like “Jesus,” or a phrase, like “my God I love you,” over and over, especially when you don’t have the energy to pray any other way).
This retreat gem is based on the fact that prayer is a conversation with God. It’s meant to be a dialogue, a give and take of words, a sharing. So not only are we to speak to God, praising him and telling him of our needs, but we are to listen to God. In other words, for part of our prayer time we will be silent.
The pattern for this type of prayer is as follows: First, acknowledge what I wish to say. Communicate this to God. Receive God’s words (perhaps in Scripture), and then respond. This response may take time. It may require a change in our attitudes or habits.
In regard to receiving God’s words, it’s important to distinguish what is really from God and what may actually be from myself or from Satan. God’s words do not discourage. They bring peace and joy. Though they may contain a challenge, they convey hope and promise.
One way to begin this kind of relational prayer is to imagine God saying, “How are you?”
Does God really speak to us? Recall the story of Elijah hearing God not in a great wind, an earthquake, or fire but in a small still voice. God speaks in the quiet of our heart. He doesn’t thunder, but he whispers.
Only once did I ever hear God speak loud and clear. When the major revision of the Christ Our Life series was underway, the publisher called to say that they wanted the books to be out a year earlier than planned. This meant ten months were cut from the time I had originally been given to rewrite them. Back then the series had 72 components. No way could I revise those books in such a short time frame!
Frantic, I paced back and forth in my room. The project was now impossible. What should I do? In my distress I prayed. Suddenly I heard the words, “Go for it. I will be with you.” Where did that come from? Does God speak slang—”Go for it”? Immediately I was at peace, and, yes, the series was completed on time and was a huge success.
As St. Teresa of Avila, doctor of the Church and great teacher of prayer, said, “Prayer is having a conversation with someone who, as you know, loves you.” It’s personal.
A song that echoes this statement:
• What is your favorite way to pray?