Prayer connects us with God

In one of the many sale catalogs that find their way into my mailbox, there is a picture of a T-shirt with lettering that reads, “Prayer was the first wireless connection.”

Perhaps the development of wireless technology could influence nonbelievers toward the realization that we do make a connection with God when we pray.

Even believers can feel abandoned by God and fail to sense his presence when going through a period of grieving or a difficult situation.

The popularity of the poem “Footprints in the Sand” is evidence that many people have found solace in knowing that the connection was not lost but made stronger.

The picture that usually accompanies the poem shows two sets of footprints in the sand indicating that God is walking with us along the pathway of our life. Then, we see just one set of footprints. The poem tells us that we have not been abandoned, as God has saved us from the turbulent waters and is carrying us to a safe haven, leaving just his footprints in the sand.

At times, people feel distant from God, even though they read Scripture and recite the formal prayers of the congregation. An alternative approach, of using more informal language when praying, may help to grow closer to God.

A common thread among mystics and holy men and women of various faiths is the belief that God resides in our soul and is available to us at all times.

St. Theresa of Avila is one person who is well known for her conversations with the inner presence of God.

Theresa’s family was part of the large community of Jews living in Spain during the l6th century. Her father converted to Catholicism to avoid being interrogated before the Inquisition. Theresa was drawn to the family’s new faith and entered the Carmelite Order of nuns.

Her main difficulty was the necessity to say the prescribed prayers both vocally with the other sisters in the chapel and privately. Using someone else’s words to pray to God did not draw her closer to him, and was a distraction for her. In consulting with her superior about this problem, she was given permission to use her own words in prayer.

Theresa became a leader in the order and the theological insight gleaned through her “conversations” with Christ was so outstanding that she became the first woman declared a doctor of the Catholic Church. Her autobiography, which includes her method of prayer, continues to be at the top of the list of books sold in Spain, surpassed only by Cervantes’s “Don Quixote.”

A century after Theresa’s time, a wounded war veteran entered a Carmelite monastery in Spain and became known as Brother Lawrence. During his novitiate, he was so outstandingly devout and did the most menial tasks with such thoroughness that his superior wondered if he might have some ulterior motive for entering the order, and decided to test him.

The superior called him into his office and told Lawrence that he was considering rejecting him as a candidate for the monastery, expecting Lawrence to plead his case in order to stay. Instead, Lawrence humbly said, “I am in the hands of God ... if I cannot serve God here, I will do so elsewhere.” These words convinced the superior that Lawrence was sincere and he admitted him into the order.

In 1991, 300 years after Lawrence’s death, a critical edition of “The Practice of the Presence of God” was published about Brother Lawrence’s prayerful life. The author, the Rev. Conrad de Meester, a Carmelite, wrote in the forward, “Brother Lawrence has become a friend of the many seekers of God through the depth of his experience, his common sense and his engaging disposition.”

Lawrence worked in the community’s kitchen and later made sandals for the monks. He never wrote any manuscripts but did write many letters that have been preserved.

A monk who visited him often over a 32-year span and took copious notes of their conversations. The letters and the monk’s notes have been the source of the many publications and translations published over the years. What made Brother Lawrence such a role model for the spiritual life? His sincerity and his simplicity. He placed himself in God’s hands and made God his best friend by constantly being in mental conversation with him as he worked in kitchen or made sandals. The more he became aware of God within him, the more he became aware of the presence of God in others and acted accordingly toward them.

Most individuals do not have a lifestyle where they can be in conversation with God all day. We must be present to the person across the desk from us, on the phone, around the dinner table, etc. But, finding those quiet moments to acknowledge that God is present within you can make all the difference in the world.

He knows everything there is to know about you. You are his child and he loves you. Think of how you would talk to your most- trusted confidant and talk to God with the same complete honesty. Befriend him.

“It’s wireless and toll-free.”

Dr. Agnes Martinko is a member of St. Edward Church in Youngstown.

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