Thursday, October 2, 2014

Have a Little Talk With Jesus

I think it's far too often the case that we make prayer into a formal exercise.  We believe that we come to God only as servants before a King and so, like a peasant in a royal court, we approach God in an impersonal way.  We seem to keep it "strictly business."  We give God stilted praises and formal honors, ask Him for the things we need, including pardon for our wrongdoings, and hand Him a list of things for which we're thankful.  Then, our "audience" with the King spent, we withdraw from Him, never making a deep and personal connection.

Evidently, these Chess pieces keep their distance too.
Heaven only knows why, as unlike God, Chess kings are about
the wimpiest and least intimidating type of kings there are.

Interestingly enough, here's what a couple of the saints had to say about prayer.  Read these quotes, and let them speak for themselves:
"We must speak to God as a friend speaks to his friend, servant to his master; now asking some favor, now acknowledging our faults, and communicating to Him all that concerns us, our thoughts, our fears, our projects, our desires, and in all things seeking His counsel."
--St. Ignatius of Loyola 
[Jesus said] "...why do you not tell me about everything that concerns you, even the smallest details? Tell Me about everything, and know that this will give Me great joy." I answered, "But You know about everything, Lord." And Jesus replied to me, "Yes I do know; but you should not excuse yourself with the fact that I know, but with childlike simplicity talk to Me about everything, for my ears and heart are inclined towards you, and your words are dear to Me.(2; 921)"
-From "Divine Mercy In my Soul" (The Diary of St. Faustina) 
To read these quotes, there is only one impression you can really get:  That we should talk to Jesus--and so also to the Father and the Holy Spirit--the way we would talk to a friend.  We should talk about the trivial things, the big things, all the goings on in our lives.

It's so easy for us to tell ourselves, "God already knows all about me!  Why does He need me to tell Him what I did today, or what happened?"  But remember, just as Jesus said to St. Faustina, that's no excuse.  And this makes sense.  Think on your own relationships.  Especially today, with social media, it's quite possible that you might know a great deal about one of your friends without his ever telling you directly.  Or maybe one of your loved ones just lives life with the philosophy of being an open book, or has a reputation that precedes her, so that you know all the "facts" before she tells you.  But just "knowing" these things doesn't mean you have no interest in hearing about it from the source.  True bonding and relationship are not about the revelation of new information, but about having a heart to heart.  It's not that they're telling you something "new" that's important, but that they're telling you at all.  It's the connection, the relating, the talking that's more important than the content.

But I'm too bashful for that!

It's the same with God as in our other relationships.  We should talk to Him as though everything we say is news to Him.  Because the benefit isn't so much that we're telling Him anything He wasn't aware of (we're not) but that He gets to hear it from us.  Wouldn't you want the same from your children?  Your siblings, friends, or spouse?

Now anyone who knows me knows that I wouldn't for a second discount the formal prayers.  They have their place.  God is King, and so He does deserve to be approached with reverence and pomp.  And it's also true that that form of prayer can be just as intimate as any conversational prayer--after all, the Holy Mass is the highest prayer of the Church, and it would probably be sacrilege to suggest that it's somehow less intimate because it's formal.  But think of it this way:  If you were the son of an earthly king, or one of his best friends, it's true that you would obey the same protocols as everyone else during formal ceremony and formal audiences with the king.  But you would also have plenty of moments "off hours" when you spoke to the king casually, as his friend or his blood rather than as his subject.  For you are both, and you should relate to the king as both.  To never relate to him as a humble subject would dishonor his majesty, but to never relate to him as a close loved one would fail to explore the depth of the personal relationship.

While I have suggested that the formal prayers, especially the Mass, can be some of the most intimate prayers we pray, I think they are that way because of the relationship we establish with God throughout the rest of our lives.  In the analogy with the earthly king, if you participated in some formal ceremony honoring him in some profound way, it might indeed be one of the most beautiful ways you show him your love (like the Mass, with God), but if you didn't have a personal relationship with him outside of that ceremony, it would just be empty pomp.  Like the Mass, the ceremony may not be any less valid, but it wouldn't do much for your own connection with the king. So too it goes, I believe, with God.  If we want the best out of the formal prayers and rites, then we must give our best in our "down time" with God.

So let's try to tell God everything.  From the smallest joys, the most petty annoyances, to the greatest bliss and the deepest woes, let's open up to Him.  We won't be telling Him anything new, because all knowledge is His.  But we will be giving Him something that He refuses to have unless we give it to Him freely:  Ourselves.

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