Monday, April 12, 2010
Lord, Hear Our Prayer
Last winter I watched a documentary about a 12 year old Jewish boy with Down's Syndrome who was preparing for his Bar Mitzvah. Everyone who had an important place in this boy’s life was interviewed and they seemed to think that this boy was far more spiritual than anyone they knew and that he had an especially close relationship with God. His main life focus was on his faith and his prayers. Even when he'd be outside on the playground, he would be chanting his prayers.
The interviewer asked him if he thought that God heard his prayers and he said yes. And she asked him if God heard his Dad's prayers (Dad was a Rabbi) and his brother's prayers and he said yes. Then she asked him if God heard his sister's prayers and he said no. When she asked why not, he said it was because his sister didn't pray!
I used to think that if I wasn’t reciting the St. Joseph Novena every day before nine am and the St. Therese Novena every day before 11 am, it was useless, that God wouldn’t hear and answer my prayers favorably. I had so much guilt if I didn’t say a daily rosary, or if I skipped a mealtime prayer. I couldn’t sleep unless I examined my conscience prior to dropping off to slumber. If I forgot to pray the Morning Offering each day before arising, I might as well go back to bed because my entire day was wasted. I was a basket case of guilt and convinced myself that I was a loser at prayer, I couldn’t possibly ever make it to sainthood, and God had lost interest in me because I wasn’t nearly devoted enough to Him.
My whole life I have moved in and out of deep devotion, going for months with much time spent on my knees reciting written prayers, and then going through a stage where written prayers just lost their meaning for me and I simply could not go through the motions and really just gave up. I struggled with this because I know that when our prayer is dry, it means so much to God that we continue, yet I wouldn't make the effort.
Then a wise priest told me that all of my life can be a prayer, as long as I keep my mind focused on Jesus throughout my daily tasks. He told me that folding laundry is a prayer, cooking dinner is a prayer, and even listening to secular music can be a prayer-love songs could be sung in my heart to Jesus and from Jesus. What he was trying to tell me was that like Brother Lawrence and his wonderful way of Practicing the Presence of God, constant prayer could be my way of life as well. It seemed so easy, and it is! I can pray constantly like St. Paul exhorts us, by keeping Jesus in my mind and in my heart in all that I do. The prayer "I love you Jesus" is never far from my heart and I repeat throughout the day. Quotes from scripture come to mind in many situations, and I use them as needed, for example: "I do believe Lord, help my unbelief" and one of my favorites "Look to Him, that you may be radiant with joy and your faces may not blush with shame."
I am finding that living my life in this state of near-constant prayer has been a blessing in all situations. I do still go through stages of deep devotion to daily written prayer, like reciting the Crown of Mary since my consecration and praying the rosary on my daily lunch hour walk, but now, prayer is so much more than that. Prayer is my own personal relationship with God, using my own words and silently listening and watching for the many ways in which He speaks to me as well. I know that the Lord will always hear our prayers if we but open our hearts to Him and His amazing, wondrous ways of working in our lives each day!