Prayer is nothing else but union with God. When one has a heart that is pure and united with God, he is given a kind of serenity and sweetness that makes him ecstatic, a light that surrounds him with marvelous brightness…. It is a happiness beyond understanding…. Through prayer we receive a foretaste of heaven…. ~ St. John Vianney
I would bet that most of us have not experienced prayer as something even happy, let alone blissful or a “happiness beyond understanding.” We might wonder what we are doing wrong. Here are some tips:
- Prayer is conversation between friends. Often we are looking for the magic formula for prayer that will suddenly make it rewarding and enjoyable. What is rewarding isn’t prayer itself, but friendship with God. We have to look beyond the individual moments of prayer towards a habit of friendship. Friendship with God is like any other relationship: it is hard work, and it thrives on regular communication.
- Be honest with God. Often we say what we think God wants to hear: “You are great, I love you, thanks for everything, give us world peace…” When what I might really be thinking is: “My life stinks.” God wants to hear what we are really thinking. Don’t worry, he can handle it.
- God answers. Always. He doesn’t feel compelled just to respond when we think it’s convenient. He will answer with the words a friend says, a passage of scripture, an accidental encounter or event, even the weather. He is everywhere, and is always communicating with us. So don’t expect the answer just when you pray, or in the way you expected it. He talks to us all the time.
- Develop a Routine – but God is Spontaneous. We humans need habits. Just like exercising, we have to start small and work our way up. We need a routine of prayer that includes silent time, scripture reading, listening to God, and the rosary or other rote prayers. This gives us a good basis for communication. But God is everywhere and always speaking. The goal is for us to constantly recognize the presence of God and to respond in love.
Prayer involves both giving and receiving. God shares his heart with us and expects us to do the same. What happens over time is that we begin to recognize that God truly wants a friendship with me. Not only does he want to be a part of my life, but he wants to be the most important part. I have to listen, speak, and respond to that friendship. What begins to happen is that we start to realize the constant presence of the One who loves us, a presence that is so powerful, it is often silent. And living in this Presence of Love turns our life into “a happiness beyond understanding.”