"Hi! It's Me!"
This piece was published in the June 2022 issue of Southern Cross.
St. Augustine tells us that whether we know it or not, “prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him.” Mother Teresa, who often spoke of prayer, said that prayer “enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God’s gift of himself.” She also said that God speaks in the silence of our hearts. “Listening,” she added, “is the beginning of prayer.”
One of my favorite quotes on prayer comes from Teresa of Avila, who makes it sound so simple. “Prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers a handy way to remember the different forms of prayer.
Adoration (or praise! We acknowledge that God is our good father and we adore Him);
Contrition (repenting for anything we have done that would offend God and keep us separated from Him);
Thanksgiving (thanking God for all that He has done for us!); and
Supplication (Intercession, asking God to help us in our needs).
Growing up, I witnessed my parents spending time in prayer every day. I have vivid memories of waking up in the morning and seeing my dad with his cup of coffee and his Bible, sitting in our front room and starting the day in prayer.
And God bless mamas everywhere who try to sneak in some extra time with Jesus. One of my clearest memories is being a young girl and playing with a holy candle my mom had lit in our kitchen. My younger siblings must have been napping, and my mom was in the front room having time in quiet prayer. I decided to put a paper towel on top of the glass (lit) candle jar. The towel caught fire, and I tossed it to the ground, where it started to burn and melt the linoleum. I was finally able to run and grab my mom and drag her to the mess I had made. She stomped the fire out and gave me a big hug. There was always a small black char mark on the kitchen floor after that.
All because my mom tried to spend some time with Jesus.
And you know what? I bet that time kept her sane for moments like that — children being crazy and living life and all that goes along with regular life. We need Jesus in our life.
I came to realize this profoundly many years later. I had always held that “personal” prayer time as an ideal but could never quite figure out how to make it work. I could not imagine what would await me if I snuck off to pray with five young sons.
Unfortunately, I had a bit of a misunderstanding about a good prayer time. In the ACTS lineup of prayer, I had gotten into a habit of focusing much of my time on the Supplication/Intercession aspect of prayer. Spending time with God felt like showing up to talk about my problems. Also, I already had the solutions that I knew would do that trick. So for a while, my relationship with Jesus was more like, “hi! It’s me! Here’s what’s wrong in my life. Here’s how I suggest we fix things!”
About five years ago, I made one of the most transformative decisions of my life: I decided to spend 20 minutes in prayer every day. And I chose to sit in silence. I say, “I chose,” but I know the Holy Spirit prompted me to do this. I had a lot of hard things going on in my life, and I was begging God to fix them. Daily prayer was the answer he seemed to give.
Instead of turning to God only when I had problems for him to fix, I had a moment of grace where I wanted to sit and look at the creator of the universe (the creator of me!) staring back at me with love.
It changed everything.
However, we approach this time with Jesus — in adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, or supplication — our Lord is there waiting. He is so pleased that you are there, eager to connect with him. So, yes, Jesus is always with us, and yes, he is undoubtedly at Mass in the form of the Eucharist.
And yet, that time each day when our soul actively seeks its maker brings us peace that the world can never give. When we commit to taking this time every day, we remember what is most important, that so much of what seems critical now doesn’t matter in the Eternal Perspective. Eventually, we begin to have peace about the many issues that seem to plague us, the things we fixate on, and beg God to change. We trust (because we know and experience this truth!) that we are on God’s radar and that he has an excellent plan for us.
When I began to schedule daily quiet time with Jesus, so much of the anxiety and insecurity that had afflicted me went away. I also noticed that my conversations with my spiritual director began to change.
And then, one day, about six months into this new approach to prayer, life got busy, and I forgot to pray. And I felt like things were still good.
“It’s all going well,” I told my spiritual director at one meeting. “Life is busy but good. My kids are doing great. My marriage is good. I want to focus on this one giant area of anxiety…” and then the levee broke.
After listening to me for a few minutes, she asked me a straightforward question.
“How’s your prayer time?”
I had to admit I wasn’t having one. It was an embarrassing light bulb moment and a good reminder of why we all need that accountability in our lives. It’s so easy to think we are doing all these remarkable things independently. But the fruit in our soul is always the best feedback.
Our soul won’t rest until it rests in Jesus. And that doesn’t mean we are doomed to deep unrest until we die. Quite the opposite! It means that we are selling ourselves short until we seek true freedom and peace from the only source that matters. God has so much joy in store for each one of us. When we take the time to pray, he will offer the peace that only comes from God.
Rachel Balducci’s latest book, No Such Thing as Ordinary: Unlocking your Extraordinary Life through Everyday Encounters with Jesus, is now available on Amazon.