Shut up and listen

If you are anything like me (perish the thought!), your prayer time looks something like this:

You’re knelt before your bed, probably tempted to lean over onto your elbows but straighten your lumbar region and flex your core to endure the posture-filled prayer stance that joins you (ever so slightly) with Christ’s cross.  After getting over the minuscule pain, you start off with one spiritual foot into the direction of God’s presence.  You get so giddy that you start showering Him with requests, praise, hymns, maybe even a few curse words if you had a bad day.  In any event, the first part of your prayer is filled with your words… and so is the middle…. and the end….

I got a wonderful idea when I was praying in this way: if I want to be more like God, perhaps I too should shut up and listen.

I took a page out of my Father’s book and, for the past week, have done as little speaking as humanly possible.  While most people looked at me funny because I was abnormally silent in the presence, it turned out to be an epic week.  I learned about their deepest desires, their needs and what makes them genuinely happy.

The best part- I listened as they solved their own problems through their own words.  By talking themselves through it, they became very satisfied with their discoveries and then thanked me (for doing absolutely nothing).

And so it is with prayer.  I think God’s silence speaks more than his words ever could.  That’s why, when I think about the Bible, I think about those written words as great pieces of advice, but there is so much that remains unwritten.  It is like outer space, we know a lot about it, but there is so much more to be discovered.

The only way to discover anything, then, is through silence, His and ours, because seeping through the barrier of words grows the profound roots of Truth.

So shut up every once in a while.  In doing so, you’ll know exactly when you should speak up.

Thinking outside of the prayer box

I have a strange prayer habit that  believe was passed down to me by my parents.  The practice in question is praying for someone at the very moment that they have requested my intercession.  For example, my friend goes into surgery tomorrow to remove a kidney and he asks me to pray for him.

I say, “What time does the operation begin?”

He says, “Around 1 pm.”

I say “You got it!”

The next day comes around and it just so happens that at 1 pm I am in the middle of teaching a rebellious group of 30 7th graders.  There’s no chance, not even in Mecca, that I’m going to be able to stop for a brief moment of prayer at exactly 1 o’clock.

So after school gets out at 5, I remember that my friend was operated on a hours ago.  After kicking myself for loving my job so much, I come to my senses and say a prayer that goes something like this:

Dear Lord,

Thank you for my friend.  May his operation go well and may his guardian angel be close to his side.  Also, if you could send my guardian angel to keep the doctors on task, that’d be great too.  In your name, Amen.

Did you notice that I framed this prayer as if it were being said just prior to the operation even though it was well after the fact?  Why would I do that?  Shouldn’t I have used the past tense saying things like “I hope his kidney was removed safely” or “I pray that he didn’t suffer much”?

The answer is simple. Prayer transcends space and time.  We can pray for someone after the fact in the same way we can pray for someone who is halfway around the world.  When we connect with God, we become part of His spiritual community which knows no limits.  Our prayers are not subject to physical laws, they are only subject to spiritual awesomeness.

The next time you feel like “it’s too late” to pray, think again.  By connecting to God through prayer, you get to step out of the world to enjoy a bird’s eye glimpse of what eternity looks like.

Discerning the Will of God

Since the beginning of time, the will of God has been contemplated by the greatest of kings to the lowliest of peasants. We ask the same questions today as they did in the past, “Am I on the right track to holiness?” “What must I do to please my God?” “How do I know that what I am doing is what God wants me to do?”

These are questions that we cannot answer alone; we need Jesus to help us find them. Thus, we search for ways to seek Him out so that we can better understand the mysteries of His Will. We do this so as to receive His wisdom via the most prized Gift He can give to us: His grace- an understanding of His immense love. This grace is the key to discerning God’s Will in our lives.

As Catholics, we have an insurmountable amount of ways in which God allows us accumulate such graces. Here are just a few of the most popular:

The Mass: At Mass, we listen to Christ through Sacred scripture and experience Him physically through Eucharistic Communion.

Adoration: While in an Adoration Chapel, we pay homage to our Lord by being with Him physically and consulting with Him about His will for our lives.

The Sacraments: Through the spiritual gifts of Baptism, Communion, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick, we come closer to Christ in our vocations as well as in our daily lives. We experience His teachings closer than ever before.

Prayer: While contemplating His spiritual presence within us, we meditate on His will for us in silence. We reflect on His mysterious love and become enamored by it, especially when we are willing to listen to His words as opposed to filling the conversation with our own.  (A well prayed Rosary is one of the best ways to really focus on His words instead of our own.)

In all of these activities, there is one common theme that all of these activities share: the presence of God. When we place ourselves inside His presence, we are more tuned in to His spiritual wavelengths and thus have better reception of the plans He shares with us. The more we are in His presence, the more we can learn from Him. The more we learn from Him, the more we understand His will.

In a couple of weeks, new students will be filling up our desks to learn from us. May we recognize God’s presence in them so that we can receive the graces necessary to teach with the faith and zeal that characterizes us as Christian teachers. When we do this constantly, we no longer discern the will of God, we participate freely in it.

Live Jesus in our hearts forever!