Grace to you!
One of my favorite themes in the spiritual life is prayer. Actually, I’m working on a small book on prayer. Hopefully, and by God’s grace, I will finish it in record time. Keep the project in prayer.
I find that the depth of our spiritual life and the fervor of our discipleship with the Lord come through in our prayer life. Prayer is like the oil which lubricates our relationship with God. The depth of our prayers correlates to our stage in the interior life, just like there is a correlation between the freshness of our conversation with a friend and the nature of our love for that friend. More love, deeper conversation. More love, more refreshing interaction.
Holy prayer is the meeting of two hearts in love, one divine and the other human. Many times, the meeting is intense and the passion indescribable. Other times, it’s casual and less intense. Overall, there is the tenderness and refreshing quality of such a conversation. It is not measured by the amount of words expended or the phrases articulated as we do in trying to find the best ways to communicate our thoughts to a person, a group or an organization with whom we have formal relationships.
Have you reflected on the difference between your conversation with someone you love so much and someone for whom you have no special affection? You will notice that the difference between the quality of the two conversations will be apples and oranges. For the person you love and who loves you too, sometimes you may not say a word. Your simple presence and gestures richly communicate your inner thoughts. For someone who is a mere acquaintance, you need much more effort to effectively share and talk. Many times, those conversations do not last more than a few minutes. Then follows the famous, “Nice meeting you. Bye.”
In the Gospel of Matthew 6:7-15, the Lord Jesus Christ tells us about prayer and how not to pray. He speaks of the kind of prayer that is evidently mechanical: “And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Mt 6:7-8).
When you are having a conversation with a friend with whom you share mutual affection, you don’t babble or add empty phrases that do not flow from the heart. You realize that often you talk less, but richly. The richness of the conversation is not so much on the volume of words used. It is not how raised the voice is or how the crescendo of the tone rocks the ceiling of the prayer arena, chapel or room. Rather, you know you are in conversation with God, who is within you, your most intimate friend. God is not thousands of miles up the skies for you to hello him down with pitched voices and shouting. God is within, nearest to you than anyone can be.
It is only when God is considered so far from us that our prayers become like a mechanical process to shout out to him to come to us. Just like the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:20-40, then we will apply all the physical force—incantation, shouting, etc.—to awaken God as if to say God sleeps. Prophet Elijah will make a mockery of the prophets of Baal, asking them to call louder. Perhaps their god is asleep or gone to the market, etc. Such is not our God.
Read the Lord’s sample of prayer for us, the Lord’s Prayer--Our Father (Mt. 6:9-14). You will notice that despite the divisions of those prayers—a theme I will not reflect on today—it speaks in that language of an intimate conversation with God who loves us.
I pray that God will give us the grace of prayer, so we can have a rich and intimate conversation with God when we pray. Much peace and healing flow from such a conversation. No one has tasted the intimacy of divine love in prayer, who doesn’t get renewed.
May you be renewed, and your prayer be of tender and refreshing quality. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Thursday Week 11, Ordinary Time B: Sir 48:1-14; Mt 6:7-15]
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.