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Responding to God’s Love in Prayer

by Gerard F. Baumbach

So here I am again! It is “late night” time for prayer. I am tired and weary, grateful for the good news of the day while thinking of the challenges on my doorstep. Some are unexpected, others simmer over time. But I cannot fall asleep without at least a few words with God, our source of life.

Often my words are limited as I review the last 24 hours. I may simply pray, “Loving God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” as I reach to set the alarm for morning. Another day awaits, one given in love by the Lord and God of all.

Coming to God in prayer

Some days I sense God’s presence so vividly and clearly. Other days I wonder if God is far from me…and then I realize that it is I who have moved in another direction.

My prayer may lead me to petition God for help. I may experience his support through others right before my eyes, people yearning to answer the knock on their unopened door. I am humbled when my prayer takes me to the awareness that I may need to seek forgiveness. This especially comes as a surprise when I have already decided who needs to act before I will.

We come to God in prayer, seeking in God’s presence as Father, Son and Holy Spirit the embrace that knows no time and never lets go.

Work and prayer

There are many ways to offer our prayer. Our work can serve as a reflection of who we are as children of God. It can become a constant witness to faith by the way we pursue the “daily work of our hands,” the way we “spend” time. Our work can become a prayerful expression of faithfulness to God.

One way I have also come to know and experience God is through his calling me to pause for prayer periodically from whatever activity I may be doing, including my daily work. Even activity typically described as “work” needs to yield to the work of the heart.

God invites us to stop whatever we are doing, no matter what, and rest in his presence. Sometimes this “rest” may not happen on our schedule. It may seize us at the least opportune moment. Yet we are unable to resist the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I once was told by a Benedictine abbot that his work and that of his fellow monks ceases periodically in order to pray as a community during the day.

Prayer calls us to something that is beyond complete understanding. Words may drift away as God’s presence resounds within us. In such moments, distractions surrender to a listening heart, time seems to cease and calm overcomes us.

God offers us a glimpse beyond time, leading to a longing that only God can fill. This is a “be-longing” that gently welcomes and lovingly captures our spirit in the movement of God with us. It is, in a word, what relationship is all about.

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Prayer and relationship

Think about a meaningful relationship in your life. What makes it, or made it, so enriching and fulfilling for you? Now reflect for a moment on your relationship with God. How might you describe it?

Prayer is “a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God” (United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, p. 463). God calls us to relationship. We can experience the wonder and presence of God through others, especially from within the community of the Church. We can also be that doorway to relationship with God for others.

Faithful prayerfulness

When we pray the Scriptures, we are deepening our relationship with God. The Scriptures enable us to hear God’s call, leaving us keenly aware of God’s ongoing faithfulness to us.

The Scriptures are a treasury of prayerful faithfulness and faithful prayerfulness. In telling the story of Esther, the USCCA (p. 465) cites her prayer in time of need: “My Lord, our King, you alone are God. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you” (Est C:14).

We pray the eucharistic liturgy of the Church when we gather as the Church. How powerful it is to come together in praise and worship of the one who calls us to himself. Word and sacrament enlighten and sustain us, not just for ourselves but to enliven us to live and share what we receive day after day. No wonder our prayer at Eucharist is one of thanksgiving wrapped in loving humility.

Through this sacrament of sacraments, we receive Jesus Christ, really and truly present under the appearance of bread and wine. Our faith moves us to respond to God’s call in our lives. We are his for others. God is hard to resist! It is no wonder that “[t]he point where his call and our response intersect is prayer” (USCCA, p. 464).

Prayerful witness

Sometimes we may seek signs and wonders to confirm that God is with us. We may doubt God’s presence among us. However, we can be reassured by looking among believers who live (or have lived) by faith as witnesses to God’s abiding presence.

We can call upon the saints when we pray. In a special way we call upon Mary, whose own free choice resulted in her carrying the Son of God. This loving mother is present to us as we link our prayer to hers. We praise God and ask Mary, disciple and intercessor, to intercede on our behalf. Mary and Joseph set a family example for Jesus. Do your own memories of childhood make you wonder what Jesus witnessed as a young child?

As a boy, I shared an attic bedroom with my younger brother. The attic stairs were opposite my parents’ bedroom door. Because my dad awoke before dawn for his workday at a large bakery, he was used to going to bed early (at least by my teen standards). A passing glance into my parents’ bedroom on the way to the attic would paint a lifetime memory I cannot forget: Dad on his knees by the bed, praying before a well-earned night’s rest. My father led me then, and leads me now, to our Father.

As we pray the Our Father, we join with Jesus in praying to the God and Father of all. We are invited into a relationship of love like no other. “When we say ‘Our,’ we recognize that we are a people bound together by the New Covenant that God has made with us through his Son in the Holy Spirit” (USCCA, p. 485).

Our 2,000-year history has been marked by change and challenge. Yet the Our Father, or Lord’s Prayer, is a “relationship link” among generations and across centuries. We can take comfort in knowing that our ancestors prayed this great prayer of the Church that we offer today, that we teach to our children and that Jesus himself prayed. The words of Jesus become our own. He continues to teach us to pray.

The risk of prayer

Prayerful living requires attention and sacrifice. It invites us to risk conversion of heart and shifts in priorities. This is what happens in life-giving relationships.

Looking now through life’s rearview mirror, I know that several decades are but a speck when measured against eternity. But, then, what is time? Prayer invites us to eternal relationship with God. Indeed, we are called to rest in the one who never ceases to call us to himself.

Consider focusing, even for a few minutes, on one of the seven petitions of the Our Father each day of the next week. Reach now for a Bible and find Matthew 6:9-13. Slowly pray in communion with the whole Church, “Our Father….”

Remain attentive to the Holy Spirit leading you in faith, trust and witness. Perhaps your prayer for today has only begun.

The theme of this article is drawn from Ch. 35 and 36 (pp. 461-495) of the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults.

Questions

• What is your practice of prayer? How have you worked to develop a personal prayer relationship with God? How has your prayer evolved and changed as your relationship with God has changed?

• Does your work allow for moments of prayer? How can your “work” become a prayer? If that is not realistic, what other activity can you pursue that puts prayer into action in your life?

• Prayer “invites us to risk conversion of heart and shifts in priorities.” In what areas are you in need of such a conversion or shift in priorities?

 

 

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