Wednesday, February 08, 2012

If Prayer Is Conversation with God, What Do I Say to Him?

It is common for beginners in the prayer life to wonder about what to do during an hour of prayer. One person recently confessed to me, "I'm taking this hour to be with God but I don't know what to say or do!"
Henri Nouwen counsels this way: "What do you do once you have set aside a time and a place to be alone with God? The simple answer is: just be with Jesus. Let him look at you, touch you, and speak to you; and look, touch, and speak to him in your own way, in any way your heart desires." (Nouwen, Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit, pp. 25-26)

When I'm praying (meaning prayer-as-conversation-with-God) I say things like...
  • words of thanksgiving to God
  • words that honor and put the spotlight on the greatness of God (I often praise God for his attributes)
  • words of confession to God; then words of gratitude for forgiveness
  • questions I have for God
  • requests I have
  • words of anger towards God (Yes, God can handle this)
  • telling God that I love Him
You might try this and see how God responds: "God, I don't know how to talk to you or be with you. Show me how."
    In talking with God use your own voice, the voice God gave you. You don't need to learn a special language to talk to God.

    After talking, listen. For a long time. I think listening to God is an aquired thing, so don't be disappointed if, in the beginning, you hear nothing.

    How often can we expect God to speak to us? Nouwen, following Jean-Pierre de Caussade's The Sacrament of the Present Moment, is certain that "God speaks to us through every moment of every day." (Ib., 22) Nouwen quotes de Caussade:

    "If we understood how to see in each moment some manifestation of the will of God we should find therein also all that our hearts could desire…. The present is ever filled with infinite treasure, it contains more than you have capacity to hold. Faith is the measure. Believe, and it will be done to you accordingly. When we abandon ourselves to God in prayer, then each moment becomes a sacrament of joy, gratitude, and loving acceptance of the will of God manifest in that moment. By embracing the present moment of contemplation, and facing ourselves honestly and openly in prayer, God will grant us our heart’s desire: The more the heart loves, the more it desires; and the more it desires, so much the more will it receive. The will of God is at each moment before us like an immense, inexhaustible ocean that no human heart can fathom; but none can receive from it more than he has capacity to contain, it is necessary to enlarge this capacity by faith, confidence, and love." (In Ib., 23-24)

    To say that each moment becomes a sacrament is to say that each moment is "holy"; i.e., set apart for God. God inhabits holy moments. And every moment, every second, of our life is, truly, holy; i.e., reserved for God.