Grace to you!
I would love to introduce the theme of prayer, using the Lord's instruction to his disciples in Matthew 6:7-8 as a critical reference point.
Here is the text: "When you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."
A boy shared how his parents took him to a fellowship, so the "prayer warriors" could pray him out of his delinquent behavior. For two hours, the boy claimed, the minister and his prayer warriors were shouting at the top of their voices. In the end, they expended their energy, breathing like people who have run a marathon, not to mention the profuse sweat.
“Imagine, they were praying for me,” the boy quipped with a tone of disdain, “but I got scared and thought they were losing their minds. Loud. Disoriented.”
Did the so-called prayer warriors stir the boy's heart with the power of divine communication? At least, for the boy, they didn't. If prayer is only about shouting on top of one's voice, plus the crashing crescendo of loud cacophonies, he wasn't going to be part of it. He tuned out.
Stepping in a chapel, where a priest was waiting for him at the request of his parents, the boy felt something different. He felt peace. Like Elijah in the Biblical account of I King 19:11-13, the boy felt God in the quiet.
The priest led the young man into a dialogue with God concerning his behavioral challenges. The young man testified that he was convinced God was stirring his heart.
Christian prayer isn't an invocation of a force from heaven or in the cosmic world. It doesn't matter what type of prayer—vocal, mental, meditative, or contemplative prayer. Christian prayer isn't incantation as done in some native cults. Our prayer is an intimate dialogue with God who loves us and is ever at home with us. It's a communication, or preferably, a conversation, a soul-to-soul relationship with God.
In this relationship, it isn't the lavishness of your words that matter the most. Your presence in the palms of God is the most crucial, just as your presence before your loved one is arguably much more enriching than the words you may say. Prayer is being in the zone of divine conversation, contemplating the face of God who loves us first and has invited us, in Christ, to this love.
God knows our hearts. He sees everything through and through. Thus, being intentionally present before God is key. Also, allowing the thoughts of our hearts, the meditations of our mind, and the words of our mouths, no matter how sparse, to enter into this loving dialogue, is sufficient.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to ask for the grace of this dialogue of prayer during this Lent for a joyful prayer-life.
Would you please pray with me: Lord, teach us to pray. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Tuesday, Lenten Weekday, Week 2: Is. 55:10-11; Mt 6:7-15]
Father Maurice Emelu, Ph.D., provides a daily blog of reflections for the season of Lent your individual spiritual edification. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations. .