Praying to God like a Friend
Usually when I’m on retreat as I walk around our province center property, I encounter beautiful works of creation like a blue heron or a deer resting in a field. This past week on the day of our retreat when we were to go outside and enjoy “God’s Playground,” I expected similar treats and hoped to capture them with my camera. As I walked all the way up the hill what did I see? Nothing! Then as I made my way to our cemetery, there on the path was a big, ugly toad basking in the sun. I said to the Lord, who clearly has a sense of humor, “Aw, c’mon! A toad?” Now I felt comfortable speaking this way to God in light of what Pope Francis recently said about praying like Moses: “Say what’s what: ‘Look, Lord, I have this problem in my family, with my child, with this, with that . . . What can you do? Now see here, you can’t leave me like this!’ . . . . And also scold the Lord a little: ‘Hey, you promised me this, and you haven’t done it’ . . . Like that, like you talk with a friend.”
On my way back down the hill, first I spotted a deer running through the woods next to me. Then I saw not one honeybee, but two working on a flower. I thought it would be nice to also get a good shot of a pretty butterfly resting on a flower. A little further on there were two butterflies next to each other. I wished they had their wings open. My wish was granted. The best was yet to come. That evening a double rainbow appeared in the sky arching from one end to the other. I was able to take several photos before it faded away. The other Sisters on retreat probably thought it was a retreat gift for them, but I took it as God’s answer to me. He was saying, “So there. You asked for it. See what I can do for you.”
This manner of praying to God is what Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof practices. He speaks familiarly with God. This reminds me of the story of the little girl who is learning to ride a bike. She prays, “God, if you just give me a little push, I’ll do the peddling.”
Later, I reflected on the toad, which hadn’t moved but was still sleeping in the sun after I visited with my Sisters in the cemetery. One of the retreat themes was the value of leisure. Perhaps God was speaking to me through that toad and saying, “It would be good if you spent more time just taking it easy.”
Do you have the habit of talking to God outside of rote prayers and meditation? If so, what has been your experience?
Thanks for sharing your retreat day with us, Kathleen. It is a lovely reminder of what it means to encounter God as “friend.”
Great question! I love speaking with God “as one friend to another,” as St. Ignatius of Loyola says. The other day I had a meeting I was nervous about. Before I got out of the car, I said, “OK, Jesus. You come with me now.” I entered the office building, stepped into the little chapel on the second floor, and was astonished to see the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar (with a couple of people quietly praying). He really DID come with me!
One of God’s “little courtesies,” wasn’t it?
I cannot remember a time when I have not felt the presence of God in my life. By my side. Keeping me safe. While you were on retreat, Sister Kathleen, I was hit by a truck. (Completely the truck driver’s fault, but I am really injured.) Even then, I felt God kept me safe. I could have been killed, yet I escaped with broken bones and ligaments and a concussion. It will take some time, but I’ll be whole again. In the meantime, I’m trying to figure out why God wanted me to slow down my life a bit and take it easy. I already take it a little too easy! And I cannot yet attend Mass, and I miss it so very much. It breaks my heart when I hear the church bells ring.
I prayed for you and your intentions while you were on retreat, Sister. I hope you could feel a little of my support.
I’m so sorry, Gabrielle, to hear about your accident. It sounds, though, like your strong faith will see you through this. Thank you for your prayers during my retreat. I’m sure they contributed to making it a beautiful experience. In return, I will add you to my daily prayers, that you may make a swift and successful recovery.