You are on the phone with somebody. You tried your hardest to make it a cordial conversation but they said some very hurtful things and then hung up the phone. You sit there stunned, hurt, and angry. You want to call them back and “give them a piece of your mind”, call a friend and whine about how you were mistreated, or cry and kick something, or blab on Facebook. Instead, why not take it to prayer? God cares about what we are going through and he is happy to help. This form of prayer is called Relational Prayer. Here’s how it works:
What is going on in your heart right now? Look at yourself (your thoughts, feelings, and desires) and try to name what you are feeling or going through.
Share it with Jesus. You can be completely honest with God about how you feel and what you think. There’s nothing “off limits.” This is the toughest step for me because I always try to deal with things myself. It helps me to picture Jesus with me. First I was looking at my problem (step 1); now Jesus is standing with me and He and I are looking at the situation together. I can begin to see how He sees the whole thing.
How does God respond to what you have shared? Maybe it’s a new insight into the situation, a change in feeling or thought, or just a sense of peace.
Respond to what you have received. I always forget this step, like the ungrateful lepers. Maybe his answer stirs up something you disagree with, or you have a hard time believing what he says. Maybe you need some clarification, or just say “Yes, Lord’ or “Thank you.”
Here’s a little personal experience of relational prayer to show you how it works:
Every month I turn in my business miles to my parish for reimbursement. I track my mileage carefully and I put it together into a nifty itemized spreadsheet. But one of my trustees would always to question me about items on the spreadsheet. One day he saw miles for a funeral. “Was this a parishioner?”, he asked me. “No, it was a priest’s mother’s funeral. He and I were in seminary together.”
“Oh, so he’s a friend, that’s why you went.”
“I went because he’s a priest,” I said.
“Do you go to every priest’s mother’s funeral?”
I had to admit that I didn’t. He refused to sign the check. I grudgingly agreed take this item off the list and resubmit my miles. I went back up to my office feeling furious. I also had a meeting starting in less than 10 minutes, and I couldn’t walk into the new meeting hopping mad.
So I prayed. I sat there and told Jesus that I felt like I’d been called a liar, that I did so much for the parish and I how unappreciated I felt. Then I sat and stared at the image of the Good Shepherd. Jesus seemed to say, “I understand; I feel you.” I received a sense that my pain mattered. But also with the Good Shepherd looking at me, I had to sheepishly admit that my pride was what hurt the most. “Thank You, Jesus, for listening,” I responded, and then got up to go to my next meeting.
Relational prayer allows you to find blessings, conversation, and communion in unlikely places. The stuff of everyday life matters to God more than we realize. In fact, our failure to relate things to God can be our biggest obstacle to growing in a relationship with Him. It doesn’t have to be frustration. It can be the joy of a child or a sunrise, the peace of finishing a job, or the happiness of of a great conversation with someone. All these things can be the stuff or prayer. Relate them to God and let Him fill them with His love. Give God a chance to show you how much He cares.
What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins a griefs to bear.
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.
Oh what peace we often forfeit, Oh what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.