Why do we pray? There are lots of reasons: to unburden our hearts, listen to God for guidance, ask for a particular grace, gain confidence and calm our anxiety….the reasons are endless.
When it’s hard
We know we need God, but it isn’t always easy to connect with him, even when we know it’s a good thing. Sometimes prayer is like facing a blank sheet of paper in that writing assignment in school: we feel like we’re starting from nothing and have to make it all happen by ourselves. It feels intimidating and scary. And we’d rather not.
How to make it easier
I was reminded in Ralph Martin’s book, Hungry for God: practical help in personal prayer, that it doesn’t have to be hard. Instead, we can start with prayerfully reading scripture or a spiritual book and wait until the words we’re reading get our attention in a special way. When particular words tug at our heart or imagination, we can put the book down and let God draw us deeper.
The words we read become a kind of launch fuel that propels us from the natural to the supernatural—from our own action to God’s action in us. There, we soak in the guidance, or courage, or insight that God wants to give us. We spend that time “resting in God” almost as a patient undergoes repair work while under local anesthesia. We remain conscious, but have allowed God to “operate” on us by briefly giving our heart and imagination to him. In these grace-filled moments, God’s truth sinks into our bones, into our DNA. We are changed. We have become more like God.
Another great reason to pray
As if that were not enough reason to let God take the reins of our soul in holy reading, there is another powerful reason. When we have let the truth of God’s word feed us deeply, when we have digested and really absorbed his word in this way, only then can we bring that healing and conviction to everyone we meet. We become lay preachers in the best sense of the word: we bring the light we have received from God to light up the world!
Tell no one
I always wondered why Jesus told his disciples to “tell no one” about certain actions of his, like his healing of the deaf man (Mark 7:36) or raising a girl from the dead (Luke 8:56). A homily yesterday gave a good answer: it was because the disciples had not yet chewed, digested, and absorbed the truth in Jesus’ words and actions. They would not understand him well enough until after the Resurrection and especially after Pentecost. Spreading the news of his miracles too early would have had no effect because the preachers were still too green.
Be a bright light
It’s the same with us. The beautiful moments in holy reading when we put down the book for a few moments and allow God to heal, guide, and unburden us from the inside are powerful sources of grace to live out our vocation to be lights to the world.
I recommend Ralph Martin’s Hungry for God: practical help in personal prayer. Part One is his remarkable conversion story. Part Two on prayer is pure gold!
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P.S. I’m preparing a FREE “Revive Your Catholic Prayer Life” 5-Day challenge to begin in September. You can help by scrolling down and typing your greatest obstacle to a consistent prayer life. Thanks!!