Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.
― Mother Teresa
Prayer is a sacred act we have a tendency to take for granted in a multitude of ways. Many of us have a bad habit of not turning to prayer unless we are in some kind of trouble. Others of us fail to appreciate the great gift it is to approach the Maker of Heaven and Earth in conversation just as we might speak to a respected friend. Because Christ serves as our High Priest, we always have access to the inner sanctuary of the temple, so to speak. All we have to do is believe, ask, and, as Mother Teresa so eloquently reminds us, to listen.
Unfortunately, our ability to listen is daily challenged by a bombardment of messages and information that is greater than at any other time in human history. From television and internet to cell phones and radios, we are almost never in silence. Unless, we make a concerted effort to find time to be quiet.
The first step to silence is to pick a time in each day when you plan to spend time with just yourself and God. Enter a room or your closet, close the door, turn off the cell. Begin by finding a comfortable position. Take three deep, breaths. Spend the first few moments with God concentrating on clearing your mind. Don’t let thoughts about your To-Do list or the confrontation at work that day get in the way of this moment when you are preparing to speak to the Most Holy of Holies.
The ability to clear one’s mind and be comfortable in our own silence takes practice. Don’t expect to get it right at first. But having with you your two strongest weapons–your faith and your Bible–will certainly help you focus your mind on the things of God and not the things of this world. Ask Him to help you listen. Admit your fears and your hope to Him.
Eventually, you will be able to expand the time you spend in your sacred space. In fact, you will grow to covet the quiet time. You will find there is always something or someone to pray about. You will also find that even just sitting and concentrating on your own breath once you have invited God in can be a holy experience.
But, be ready to check the answers you think you hear from God against what you know He says in His word. Ask your spiritual advisors for confirmation of what you think you have heard. Remember that our human hearts are known as “the great deceivers” for a reason. Often, the truth God needs us to see is initially painful, but it always leads to a better us, to the healing that is the promise of Christ’s love for us.
Finally, remember that, as your ability to find the sacred places in your own heart and day increase, you are duty-bound to share what you have learned with others. Sacred spaces are even more sacred when we learn together to be still and listen for God:
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them, Christ tells us in Matthew 18:20.
The family that prays together stays together, isn’t just an old wives’ tale. It is the profound truth of the power of God when we truly let Him into our lives.
So, the next time you prepare to pray, take a moment or two to remember the value of the privilege it is that we Christians can speak, speak, to the One and Only in full knowledge that He is listening to us and that the One who died for us is sitting at His right hand to intervene on our behalf. Now, that is a sacred truth worth feeling from the top of our heads to the tips of our toes.
Be on the lookout for the sacred this week. Make time in your day for it. All you need do is ask.