Determine to pray well.
Wait a second! Sounds a bit like an old heresy…overemphasis on the power to will. Isn’t prayer a grace-filled activity that involves the action of God? Just as it takes two to tango, it takes two to pray: you and God. Prayer entails a relationship. A relationship implies there are two players. Ask yourself, what part of this relationship depends upon me? How is your attitude towards that relationship? You can determine the openness of your heart to God’s action by your attitude towards prayer.
Google: “Mental attitude determines success.” How many results did you find? On December 26th I found 5,900,000. While I don’t claim Google as the ultimate authority, it still alludes to human experience. Either human experience deceives us or there is truth to the matter. Does the same hold true for prayer? Does mental attitude determine success in prayer?
I guess we’d have to begin by defining a successful prayer. How would you define it? Zero distractions? Incredible theological insights? Feet left the ground or head hit the floor? If the purpose of prayer is to grow in intimate friendship with Jesus, then perhaps these aren’t the determining factors of a successful prayer.
How about a heart-to-heart conversation? The great spiritual masters, saints and mystics, down to the simplest of people would call a successful prayer a heart to heart conversation with the Lord. Do you want to converse with the Lord in the New Year? That is the starting point: WANT IT!
Second step: Do you believe that you can have a heart to heart with the Lord? Answer the question with experience. Try St. Teresa of Avila’s easy two step approach this year. It is like an undulating motion. Begin with consideration and move into conversation. When conversation runs dry, return to consideration until you naturally return again to conversation.
- Consideration: Consider Jesus in a gospel passage; make use of a spiritual book on the life of Christ; or fix your gaze on a picture of statue of Jesus Christ. What is he doing? Why? What does it have to do with me? What must he be thinking and feeling?
- Conversation: Let this consideration naturally flow into a conversation with Christ. Express your desires to know him more deeply, love him more sincerely, and follow him where he leads. Praise him for the qualities you see. Ask for his help during your day. Bring before him all your petitions.
Eventually, like in any relationship, you may discover there is no need for words. Enjoying the presence of the other suffices. Words fall short in an attempt to express adoration or gratitude. The affection spills from the heart and is offered to the Lord.
Are you determined to give it a try? Try it on your knees or in your car on the way to work. Try it in a chapel or at the breakfast table over a cup of coffee. Whether you dedicate five minutes or 1 hour to this practice of prayer, this simple method can help you out as a beginner, as a long time prayer in a period of dryness, or in the commonly experienced moments of distractions. The important point is to be determined to pray well. And despite the continued challenges you encounter in prayer, be eagerly enthusiastic about your daily heart to heart with the Lord. It is precisely in those moments you can determine to trust in the Lord. Bow your head in humility to the Other, who is the first one investing in a loving relationship with you.
Begin the New Year with determination and desire; and discover the friend walking by your side in 2013.