God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer. – St. Teresa of Calcutta
When you pray, how often is it just an item on your day’s to-do list? Or how often does your prayer look more like giving God a to-do list? Prayer is more than an obligation, it’s the foundation of our relationship with the Lord. So how can we make prayer more personal and deepen our relationship with God?
As a convert to the Catholic faith, Sister B said, “When I first started to pray I was given a prayer book. And prayer books are a great resource, but they are other people’s words to try to express what we’re feeling, or to give structure to our style of prayer. It’s a good starting point.”
But Sister B soon found that simply reciting prayers wasn’t helping her grow in her relationship with the Lord. Her prayer life became stagnant.
“A lot of the time when I was speaking to God I was really just rattling off a list,” she said. “‘I need this. I need help with that. I’m mad about this. This person is stupid, could you smite them?’ Like ‘Here God, this is what you should do today.’ It was giving God an agenda.”
Sister B explained that her prayer was a one-way conversation, and it was affecting the way she viewed God’s role in her life.
“God isn’t my nanny or personal assistant,” she said. “He’s not some spiritual slot machine that I insert five prayers into, pull the handle, and hope I win the jackpot. He is someone who loves me and who I have a relationship with. He’s been patiently waiting for me to want to have a more dynamic relationship.”
St. Therese of Lisieux said, “Prayer is a surge of the heart. It is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” And Sister B shared that when she learned to pray from the heart it transformed her life and helped her grow in intimacy with the Lord.
“The kind of prayer that I think God longs for from all of us is that kind of prayer from the heart, where we’re just pouring out what is foremost on our mind and soul,” she said. “Some days those things are super positive and we’re just feeling so grateful. Other days is might be really dark and painful. But God is big enough that He can handle all of that. Because He is love.”
A key part of praying from the heart is listening to the Lord. Making prayer a two-way conversation is how we can hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and sometimes the answers to our prayers. But we can’t hear it if we don’t take the time to listen.
“Giving God even a minute or two is important because it creates a space in our heart for the Holy Spirit to act,” Sister B said. “Prayer is supposed to be a conversation, not a monologue. So if we don’t make those intentional moments of giving God space to act, we forget we’re in a conversation.”
“We forget that God is a being who wants relationship,” she pointed out. “Not just prayers said at Him, but prayer as an encounter with Him.”