Blessed Pope John Paul II once wrote a letter to the Carmelite family in which he described Carmel as the place where ‘life becomes prayer and prayer becomes life.’ I love this quote but it does raise some questions for me. What is prayer? How does it shape or even become my life?
Prayer is for many a difficult subject. Sometimes it seems so difficult to be satisfied in our prayer life that we choose not to pray. So the idea of prayer as a lifestyle seems remote and not an attractive choice. If this seems to be my reality, how can I change that? Because, in truth, prayer can be difficult. It is hard when there seems to be no response, or as a pray-er once uttered, ‘out of the depths I cried to you O Lord and there was nobody there.’ Maybe the first step in a life of prayer is to be honest about why I am praying. Is my prayer a request for God intervene? Is my prayer for a miracle? Is my prayer about a need for reassurance? Or a sense of direction? All of these things are valid things to pray for, but is it the right place to start.
An area of life that I most value is friendship. I have friends who have known me since my first day at school. I have friends from work, college, study. I have friends I have met through my ministry. I have a wonderful group of close friends who offer me an unconditional love and support. Why are these people my friends and why do they invest such love in me? Because we spend time together. We communicate. We share our thoughts and feelings. Because there is a level of intimacy and trust that is earned and is not present in other relationships. If I transfer this knowledge to my prayer life then maybe my prayer will become more solid.
I don’t only meet or talk with my friends when life is hard, or if there is a difficulty to overcome. My friends will be there for me in all those things. I meet with my friends because I enjoy their company. We share our joys and laughter as well as the problems that come along. We talk about our lives, with interest and concern. We laugh at the situations we find ourselves in. We trust each other with our love. We can be vulnerable in one another’s presence. We can be held in a safe embrace and not be afraid to let go.
If we bring this friendship to prayer then it just happens. Yesterday I spent the day alone and without any distractions. I made no plans. I found a small country church and spent some time there just bringing my life to God. It seemed so natural. There are things happening in my life at the moment when I need my God friend to be involved. I know that God knows all of me, but sometimes I need to speak to God about all of me. To say these things out loud. Me and my God.
Try it. Spend some time today talking out loud with God. The little things that have happened recently that made you laugh, smile, cry or dance with joy. Speak of your heart’s desire. Speak those dreams that so often go unsaid for want of a safe ear to hear them. Tell God those things that nag at you and that you avoid. Speak to your friend and come to know that God wants to listen, wants to be a part of your life.
Maybe this will change prayer for you. After all you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.