By Deacon John De Gano
“Teach us to pray…” asked the disciples of Jesus after noticing that John the Baptizer had taught his followers to pray.
He responded to their request with the Our Father prayer.
Many say it’s the perfect prayer… Combining praise, petition, remorse and trust.
But how often do we pray it? Really pray it. Allowing the words to speak to our hearts?
Let’s face it. Praying is a challenge for us.
Prayer is God’s way of communicating with us and Jesus tried to be in prayer with his Father every day.
We see it at his baptism. After a day of healing and blessing. On the mountain of transfiguration. In the Garden of Gethsemane. And even from the cross.
Jesus shared the triumphs and sufferings of his day and life with his heavenly Father as we might share our day with our spouse or a close friend and confidant.
As followers of Jesus, we should want to do likewise with God, however, most of us do not pray on a daily basis. We are simply prayer-challenged.
A current TV commercial for convenient banking by cell phone describes the situation best:
A family is about to board an airplane when Dad stops to pay the dog sitter through his phone’s banking app because the island they will be vacationing on may not have cell service, let alone electricity. The two children look up from their electronic devices and respond, ‘Seriously?’ Mom tries to allay their concerns, pointing out they can always talk to one another. The older sister looks at her younger brother with contempt, indicating that she wants nothing to do with him.
The sister in the ad has it wrong. Sitting down and having a conversation can be extremely rewarding. Fun! Life-giving! Provide guidance and, most of all, feed the human spirit.
Prayer does these things and more. Prayer lifts the soul to experience the divine.
So what’s the problem?
One-to-one, personal communication is quickly becoming a lost art. We are forming bad habits. We sit at the dinner table or restaurant texting our friends instead of asking the person sitting across the table from us how their day went. We’d rather tune out the world and intently listen to music or play video games than be truly present to another human being.
If only someone would invent an app for ‘that!’ ( God), we tell ourselves. Maybe then we would be more likely to pray…
We tell ourselves that we don’t know how to start. What to say. How to end it. It seems we will find any excuse to avoid prayer:
Not the right time.
Not the right place.
We need to stand or sit or kneel or lay down.
And what if we fall asleep while praying? Is it true the angels finish our prayer or does it expire and we have to start our prayer all over from the beginning?
Praying seems un-natural to us, we conclude, because there are just too many rules.
But, in truth, there are just two.
Talking AND listening (to God).
The saints were able to do it. Jesus did it, although his prayer time was often interrupted by his own disciples, who wanted him to come heal more people (they thought they were being helpful).
Jesus, however, didn’t let the outside pressures or gossip influence his personal relationship with his Father through prayer. As baptized Catholics, members of Jesus’ family, we have an obligation to keep in touch.
Let us form new habits and meet that challenge head on.
John De Gano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Riverside.