Thursday, April 25, 2024
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Mother Hilda Scott OSB: Prayer starts with God, not with us

Sr Hilda Scott OSB
Sr Hilda Scott OSB
Sr Hilda Scott OSB is the vocations director for the enclosed Benedictine Abbey at Jamberoo.
So many of us have fixed notions of prayer that we can back ourselves into a totally unhelpful corner. Photo: Unsplash.com
So many of us have fixed notions of prayer that we can back ourselves into a totally unhelpful corner. Photo: Unsplash.com

What is prayer? So many of us have our fixed notions of prayer, and can back ourselves into a very frustrated, confusing and totally unhelpful corner. Here is my definition.

There is a line of communication between the soul and God. Indeed there is a line of communication between God and every living thing. On the day that ceases to exist, we cease to exist. It is the life of God within us that keeps us in existence.

That line of communication is prayer and prayer starts with God, not with me or you. Notice, therefore, prayer is already happening before you or I know anything about it. I read a lovely piece once that said, “there is a candle of love which burns within the darkness of the one who is lost.” Yes, there is the prayer.

We are not always in touch with that truth. We go about our day often unaware of God. We do not see the times he makes his presence clear to us.

So, we think he does not know and he does not care. We think we are on our own and God will only come good when we come good. We even think we have to be good in order to pray. How wrong we are! God is always there, praying within us, no matter what we have done or what we think.

When you and I give God a thought, however fleeting, or pick up our rosary beads, or recite a line of the Scriptures or simply call out to him in whatever way we do, then all that is happening is that we are going “online.”

We are responding to the prayer that is already happening in us. It is as though we were opening the door of our hearts to God and discovering that he has been there, knocking, all along.

Many people ask the question, “How do I pray?” Do you have an answer for, “How do you breathe?” I don’t think so. You just do it.

We all breathe differently. Sometimes, after a dousing of cold water, our breath is taken in gasps. Sometimes we are unwell and our breathing is slow and halting. Sometimes during and after an extraordinary amount of exercise, our breathing is quick and shallow. And so it goes on.

There is not one way to breathe and there is not one way to pray. Don’t let anyone tell otherwise. Pray as you can, not as you can’t, is the advice of the Desert Fathers and Mothers. Go “online” your way. God will instantly know who it is!

He can distinguish your voice from any other. Maybe all you do is talk to him on the bus going to work, and again on your way home. You will be amazed at how that habit grows. He will let you know when he wants another kind of conversation.

You won’t hear God’s voice, but it does not matter. That’s a delight waiting for us when we see him face to face. What matters is that you keep going “online” in your way. Remember every one of us came into the world equipped with the prayer DNA.

Let me tell you a story, which (I think) I heard from the life of Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan. There was once a man who went into the church at the same time every day. He simply sat there and said, “Hello Jesus, it’s Jim here.” No more.

After many years he grew old and sick and was approaching death in hospital. He had no family. A priest came to see him. He inquired after Jim and mentioned that no one would be coming to see him.

The ward attendant said, “But someone comes every day at 12pm.” The priest went along to Jim’s bed and was told, “Ah yes, Father. Every day Jesus comes. He just sits there and says “Hello Jim, it’s Jesus here.”

That is his prayer inside you, every millisecond of your life. Just respond, and you are praying.

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