The presence of God in us since Baptism is the ground and center of our existence on earth. Prayer is our response to this outflow and inflow of God’s initiative in us. It is a grace that bestows on our ordinary life an extraordinary meaning.
Prayer is not an accessory to our existence; it is the backbone of our spiritual life. It can neither be locked away in our interiority nor exercised in isolation.
In the fullest sense, prayer involves all the dimensions, dynamics, and dispositions of our being and doing. It permeates our human presence in its totality. It encompasses our care for the people, events, and things that comprise our world.
The more we mature in the life of prayer, the more we feel the need to experience God as the focal point of our intentions and actions. We do our best to make our union with God in awe, wonder, and worship the “glue” that holds the rest of our life together.
Such prayer arises in our soul because we believe that our deepest spiritual identity is hidden in Christ as Christ is hidden in God (see Colossians 3:3). This experience calls for a certain distancing from the intensity of everyday involvement. These moments of stepping aside enable us to witness in tangible ways what is ultimately intangible—the mystery of our being in the mind and heart of God even before we came into this world (see Psalm 139:13-14).
Just as true friends are never totally absent from one another, so are we always in some way in the presence of God. From time to time, friendship prompts us to create special moments away from the business of the day to renew our togetherness, perhaps over a pleasant meal, during a meandering walk in the park, or while conversing heart to heart about a topic of mutual concern.
Similarly, to restore the depth dimension of our spiritual life, we need to set aside moments of special presence to God, perhaps during an hour of adoration that fosters intimacy with the Trinity, followed by rededicating ourselves to the situations of service where Providence places us.
These moments of concentrated presence to God put daily events in a divine perspective. They become invitations, challenges, and appeals to be with the Lord with the same depth of loving intimacy with which the Lord is near to us.
Prayer confirms that God initiates the transformation of the attitudes, customs, and experiences that guide our decisions and actions. To pray with our spirit, heart, mind, and will is to give a sacramental meaning to all that we are and do–to our meetings with others and to our times of solitary presence to the Lord.
The four facets of living prayerfully that ought to become as familiar to us as waking in the morning and retiring at night are:
- Praise. Dear God, you are sovereign. You are able to use the most tangled webs of my inner ponderings and my outer relationships for your purposes. Awesome God, I praise you.
- Thank. Dear God, there is no moment in my life that does not evoke thanks to you: for birth to death, for all things great and small. Gracious God, I am so grateful to you.
- Confess. Dear God, make my heart an open book in which I record for you my good intentions and my not-so-good actions. Let my heart be pierced with repentance, with sorrow for sin and trust in your forgiveness. Merciful God, I am yours.
- Dear God, I ask for your guidance. I seek your will. I knock on the door of your heart. Listening God, I trust that you are near and that you hear my plea.
Prayer in this sense is comparable to beholding the wonder of everything around us with the eyes of a child and to believing with our whole being that we are held in the palm of a mighty and mothering hand.
Prayer becomes a cry for mercy, a song of joy, a wordless exchange of love between friends, a burst of gratitude when the ordinary suddenly becomes extraordinary. Guided by grace, we shed the imprisoning restrictions of self-centeredness and acknowledge our union with the Triune God in whose presence alone we find rest.
Every time we turn to prayer, we ponder yet another way to contemplate the grandeur of God: in words and silence, through meditative reading, in adoration and awe.
Prayer is a two-way relationship, an encounter: between God’s thirst for us and our thirst for God; between God’s promise of salvation and our need for redemption.
Prayer is not an “activity” we take under our wing but a disposition of the heart that unfolds over a lifetime. In Scripture and in the writings of the spiritual masters, we learn that all of our daily struggles—our joys, relationships, and ordinary routines—ought to be seen as openings to prayer.
In the words of St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897), “Prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look toward heaven; it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” In prayer we find God and in finding God we find the true self we were meant to be.