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 some 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 wants and welcomes their prayer. So then how does one talk with God? Will my words be acceptable?
Of course, prayer is not a performance. It is a conversation. When praying, one is both listening as well as 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 might be listening. God is the primary focus and audience; not those who may be in our prayer group or a service of worship. Someone once put it this way. Several people 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. A self-centered person only prays when he or she wants 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 or her needs. And even more profound praying accepts what God knows to be our needs.
None of us knows 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 things 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 Catholic, the limitation of knowledge may become the strength of our prayers. 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.
So let us 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.