Story and Relationship
Prayer is not just about us; it’s not just about the experiences we desire to have with God. Prayer is about our part in the big story of salvation. When we see ourselves as a part of this larger story, we feel connected, rooted in something bigger than ourselves. This perspective gives us meaning and purpose beyond our own lives.
People who grow up without a sense of how yesterday has affected today are unlikely to have a strong sense of how today affects tomorrow. They are unlikely to understand in a bone-deep way how the decisions they make now will shape and affect their future.
—William K. Kilpatrick
Our prayer is not a series of random attempts to reach God but rather a journey that we’re on. Seeing this larger picture, seeing ourselves connected to the larger story, gives prayer a context. Indeed, prayer is one of the primary ways we play our part in God’s plan of salvation.
I see an analogy to my relationships with my family. My wife, my kids: Many things happen with them in a given week that I can’t predict. If I am not in daily communication with each one of them, in relationship, chances are I won’t recognize something happening. And depending on how distant I am from the person affected, he or she may not even tell me about it. I would miss it.
Yet there are many days when spending time with my family is not very fulfilling emotionally: I am just with them, and they are with me. But it is exactly this type of time that sets us up for the bigger, more significant experiences—those moments that make memories and cement our relationships even more.
Because prayer is all about a relationship with the Trinity, the same principle holds true. If you’re not spending regular, consistent time in prayer, you may miss some or even all of the deep connecting moments with the Lord that will cement your relationship with him. Even when you try to pray and God doesn’t seem to show up, don’t stop praying; rather you should see this situation as his helping you develop perseverance. You will also find a deeper appreciation of the times when God sets you on fire. In fact, persevering through times of desolation bears fruit in your relationship over the long haul. Countless saints will testify to this.
The other thing that helps me pray is the realization that there is very little in prayer that depends on me. I can’t make myself have deep spiritual experiences. I can’t create consolation for myself. I can’t make up a word from God or make myself any holier. All of that depends on God. His movements are his, and I can’t do anything to make them happen.
The only things that I bring to the mix are consistently showing up for prayer and the disposition of my heart when I am there.
With so little to contribute, I have decided that I want to make sure I’m doing my part every day.
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From God, Help Me: How to Grow in Prayer, by Jim Beckman (Servant Books, 2008).
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