Wednesday, June 18, 2014
When I had a major crisis in my life several years ago, my prayer life (as one would expect) increased in intensity...first the rosary, which is an excellent way for anxious people to pray, and which provides great consolation, and spiritual reading--the praying was asking God to solve my problems, and the reading was to find a reflection of my own life in the lives of the saints and spiritual writers in my Catholic tradition. I discovered something interesting, though. I grew up thinking (wrongly) that there was a proper, decorous way to address the Lord, although one could be more familiar with His Mother. And in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament (which, thanks to the Dominican Sisters who taught me first and second grade, I have always revered and loved) I did not want to lose my composure, or say the "wrong" thing. It sounds silly after having read the psalms, but that is the way I grew up.
I found out two things: you cannot pray too much or too often, and if people tell you that saying the rosary 9 times a day is compulsive, tell 'em to buzz off and remind them of the Battle of Lepanto, when 5,000 men said the rosary for an entire night to ward of a Moorish invasion--and the wind changed and saved Rome. (So if it's a bad day, I tell myself that I am in Lepanto, and leave it at that...). My experience with prayer, which is nothing like that of St John of the Cross or Teresa of Avila (although I have an affinity for Therese of Lisieux) is simply this: start the conversation. Complain, rage, and grieve like Job--ask stupid questions, like the Apostles or annoying ones like Martha--or just listen, like Mary. But start the conversation. It seems silly but I think people are embarrassed when we to talk to God. When I watched John Paul II pray to the Holy Spirit in Poland by crying out directly to the Holy Spirit in front of a million people, his face raised to the sky--I learned something. All those nights or afternoons or mornings when I got very emotional and frank and spoke to God in my own words, through my own tears, those were my best efforts.
He heard me. I know very well he heard me. Not because miracles happened, but because every time I asked for a relationship to heal (for example) He gave me something to do about that relationship. Many times I ask God to do something for me and his answer is "Sure, go right ahead.Be my guest.". And a way for me to act appears on the horizon. Pope Benedict talks often about prayer and listening to God, and one thing he says a lot is that all you have to do to find God is look around. It takes practice--not because God is hard to find, but because we aren't used to looking for meaning in the world we live in. We have been conditioned to think it is irrational, chaotic, and without meaning--when in reality every nanosecond was planned before time began. My youngest son is watching a show about the origins of the cosmos--and he was talking about how many billions and billions of years ago it all began--"Yes," I said,"all intended for you." It is difficult for us to see how personal the universe is, because scientists have been taught (wrongly) to believe that the order and magnificence and beauty they study day in day out somehow arose randomly out of chaos. But even the slightest summer breeze you feel standing in your garden on a hot day was meant for you.
So pray your brains out. Pray all the time, hungry, full,drunk,sober, happy, sad. He's there anyway. But a warning: he will almost definitely give you something to do.