Prayer has always held a deep fascination for me. It is a subject that is limitless. What an amazing thing to actually be in contact with God. The God who created and sustains all things. The God who knows us, loves us and calls us by name.
What would happen if we all dedicated our lives to really learning to pray? What would happen if we created authentic schools of prayer for our young people, families and churches?
What changes would come to our lives if we all focused on St Paul's exhortation to "Pray without ceasing?" (1 Thessalonians 5.17).
I think the Church and our world would be changed. Because prayer invites God to act in us and through us today. This week's Gospel says, "Rising very early before dawn, Jesus left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed" (Mark 1.35).
Imagine Jesus early in the morning praying in communion with his Father. Imagine the loving relationship he shares with his "Abba." Jesus is the Way and everything he does points us to the path we are called to follow. He was the Son of God and prayer was obviously primary in his earthly life.
What about us? Where does prayer fit into our grand scheme of daily living? Over the years many have confided with me their genuine struggle with prayer. Perhaps we need to question our notions of prayer.
Is it merely a duty to pray - or is it a privilege? If you really think about it, we exist to foster an intimate, loving relationship with God. We can only find our true destiny if we make prayer a top priority in our lives.
'Jesus got up and went to a deserted place and there he prayed.'
I am not just speaking of "saying our prayers," but of the intimacy of knowing God in the very heart of our lives. This is what the life and example of Jesus calls us to each and every day. This is what it means to fulfill his words and "seek first the kingdom of God."
Prayer is the breath of the spiritual life. It opens us up to the ultimate reality of God's dynamic presence and burning love. It reveals to us who we really are. It is God coming to meet us and love us wherever we are in our lives.
Here is a simple meditation that I have found helpful on my journey of prayer. Sit quietly and peacefully. Just let these simple prayer thoughts slowly soak into your heart and mind:
"Come Lord Jesus with every breath. . . . You are loving me right now. . . . I am loving you right now. . . . Together we love our Father and all people right now."
Take some time each day. Try it for a week. Let go and let the awe inspiring love of God penetrate into you each day. Take refuge in the infinite love of the heart of Jesus.
The key to prayer is love. This is why Jesus went off early in the morning to be alone and pray. Jesus lets the Father's love permeate him entirely. Then he shares this love with all people who open their hearts to him.
To be a disciple of Jesus is to be a living instrument of love. What is more desirable, more beautiful, more inspiring than our God who is love here and now? We need to contemplate the limitless love of God.
We pray because we are responding to God's love in the here and now. We pray to return the gift of limitless love and mercy that God pours out on us every day. We pray to be an instrument of God's saving love for every person in our broken and suffering world.
We Catholics call this prayer of love . . . contemplation. It is at the heart of our calling as Christians and is not some esoteric technique for a chosen few. (See 2709-24 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)
Here is a wonderful quote from no. 2713 in the catechism: "Contemplative prayer is the simplest expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gift, a grace; it can be accepted only in humility and poverty. Contemplative prayer is a covenant relationship established by God within our hearts."
Jesus points each of us to this "covenant relationship established by God in our hearts."
So again and again and again . . . Let us pray.