Have you ever noticed that prayer can appear to be a simple exercise for some people? Not so for others. Many people find it difficult, if not impossible, to pray. Even those who have come to church for years may pray only rarely. Often they have no sense of a personal participation or little awareness of the presence of God.
Most Catholics would like to learn to pray more effectively. They believe that God welcomes their prayer. How does one talk to God? Will my words be acceptable? Do I sound like others I have heard pray?
Prayer is not a performance. It is a conversation. When praying, one is both listening and speaking with God. When we pray we are not like actors saying their memorized lines. Rather, we are talking to our dearest friend.
Furthermore, audible prayer should not be made a performance for those who may be listening. God is the primary audience; not those who may be in the prayer group or a service of worship. Someone once put it this way. Several men met each Friday morning for prayer. As one of the more timid of the group offered his prayer, another said, “Speak up, I can’t hear what you are saying.” The one praying paused and said politely, “It’s all right. I wasn’t speaking to you.”
Prayer is not the magic key by which one gets what one wants. It is more nearly the humbling experience through which one receives what he needs. Self-centered persons only pray when they want something. They are very much like children who only know how to ask for presents. Maturity in praying surfaces when one begins to seek His needs. And even more profound praying accepts what God knows to be our needs.
Prayer is not a religious event through which we change unfavorable circumstances. It may become God’s way of transforming an unrepentant and obstinate person. The circumstances which we want changed may be the stuff out of which God desires to create our virtue and character. If every resistance were removed from our bodies, we would grow no muscles. And if every problem were taken from our lives, we could not develop personal fortitude and trust in God.
We do not know the future. In our ignorance of events to come, we may pray for those things detrimental to our best interest. We may ask ease from a particular burden when its presence is God’s way to our maturing in character. Or we might request certain events to take place; not understanding other circumstances of the future that could become a curse.
Nor do we know what will benefit us. Small children insist that they know exactly what they need. Their parents know better.
For a thoughtful Christian, the limitation of knowledge may become the strength of our prayer. The admission of our limitations is the doorway to God’s wisdom. We must candidly face our human condition. Therefore, we must search beyond ourselves to find God’s wisdom. And the search demands both persistence and trust. To seek the will of God is nearer the essence of prayer than selecting the eloquent words of men.
So pray often. Pray while driving. Pray while walking. But talk with God as you speak with your dearest friend. Then stand back and see what happens. You will never be disappointed.