Dear Sacred Heart and St. Mary on the Lake,
We were very blessed this past week by Fr. John Whitlock as he led a day of retreat for our staff members. He led us through a series of three talks on prayer. No matter how old or young we are in the Christian life we need to hear these basic truths again and again. He led us in a quick format of prayer that you might find helpful.
Start with asking- how does the Father “see” you as you enter into this prayer time?
This is a very important question because we are too often defined by many other people or realities in our lives. By what people think of us, how we compare to others that we will see in the media or on social media, how successful things are in our lives, etc. Very often these can be negative perceptions- I don’t stack up against these other people, they think poorly of me, God is disappointed in me. It is so healing to stop and let God speak the truth into our lives. Think of Jesus’ baptism when the heavens were torn open and the Father said- “this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased”. When is the last time you rested in that place, seeing yourself as God sees you?
Acknowledge what’s going on in the secret depths your heart
This is a time to take a quick stock of our thoughts, feelings, and desires. They can be good, bad, or neutral. If possible, try to drill down into them. If feeling really happy why, what has been going on? If sad or angry what is driving the sadness or anger? It is easy to stay very surface level and miss the deeper things that are going on. This can be a great way to be more recollected.
Relate to the Lord all that is in your heart
As a society we tend to vent in many ways- to other people (which in the right context is very healthy), on social media (almost never helpful), but we don’t necessarily vent to God. This part of prayer then is taking all the realities of our life and relating them to Him. If things have been going pretty well, we can thank Him for His blessings, for being able to see His hand at work in our lives, etc. If it has been a tough time, we can let Him know about our doubts, fears, anxieties that are beneath the sadness or anger.
Receive from the Lord and be open to His response
Sometimes we skip this step. We dump all that we have been going through on the Lord and then move on without taking time to listen to what He wants to tell me. If we have been living out of lies that have been defining us this can be the time He can speak the truth to us. An image or word in prayer can come. Other times we will randomly receive a good word from someone or letter that is His answer to what we were praying about. I remember a time when I was in seminary feeling pretty discouraged. Out of the blue a note came from a distant relative that spoke directly to what I was praying about. How has the Lord spoken to you recently?
How is the Lord calling you to Respond, based on what you have received?
God will call us to respond in different ways. It might simply be that we choose to live in the truth instead of the lie. Other times we will be convicted about something that needs to change. Whenever that happens though, there is always strength to help us take the step He is calling us to. It may not always be easy but the strength is there. Take it!