A fourth-century deacon wrote, “Do nothing at all unless you begin with prayer.”
Oops. We may remember to pray when we need help, but many of us forget to pray before we get into trouble. Note to self.
So if we’ve messed up because we forgot to ask for guidance first, what kind of prayer should we offer when we need help now? St. Jane de Chantal helps us: “If in going to prayer you can form in yourself the pure capacity for receiving the Spirit of God, that will suffice ….”
For St. Jane, prayer is the art of receiving. Which means not clogging up the airwaves telling God what we think he should do. Instead, we try our best to trust him. We wait for him to act in his way and in his time.
Joy no matter what
It can be hard to remember that we can be joyful even while we’re waiting for God to solve our problem. But even while we’re waiting for him, he is alive and active in us. That brings us to another kind of prayer—one that looks for and recognizes God’s action deep in our soul. It’s the kind of action that brings us joy no matter what else is happening.
St. Therese of Lisieux explains this kind of prayer: “Prayer means a launching out of the heart toward God; it means lifting up one’s eyes, quite simply, to heaven, a cry of grateful love, from the crest of joy or the trough of despair; it’s a vast, supernatural force that opens out my heart and binds me close to Jesus.”
Prayer opens out our heart. It opens our heart to offer to God all that is troubling us and it opens our heart to receive the grace of peace from the Holy Spirit himself.
Prayer—asking for guidance, receiving the Spirit of God, and opening our heart—untangles our minds, gets us out of ourselves, and connects us with the “vast supernatural force” that is eternal peace. We are made in the image of the God of peace. Prayer connects us with that.
Prayer for others
Once we’ve “put our own oxygen mask on,” we’re in a position to help others with our prayer. St. Gregory the Great wrote, “He causes his prayers to be of more help to himself, who offers them also for others.”
Praying for friends and enemies, rich and poor, for those near and far, is the ultimate cure for our own difficulties. Because when we pray for others, we show our complete trust in God to take care of us as we invoke God’s grace to bring peace to our brothers and sisters in their troubles. Trusting God always makes us more secure and more peaceful.
St. Paul of the Cross puts it this way: “The soul at prayer is a rock, because God holds it fast in his infinite love.”
P.S. Scroll down and let me know (if you haven’t already done so) if you’d be interested in a live webinar (an hour-long presentation that you “attend” on your computer) later this year on gratitude, prayer, and patience. I’d love to share it with you!