1. Prayer as a Conversation with our God-friend.

First Step: This part follows on from the previous explanation (First Step: Re-discover a Conversation with a friend) of the need of prayer as a conversation with our God-friend.

Many Ways To Pray

It is always difficult to speak about prayers because we all have different ways to pray. Great Saints dedicated their entire lives to explore and teach us how to pray. I am not a saint [well, not as yet p], but there is one thing which, I believe, is always true: Prayers are personal and not a thing only for the mind. So I won’t talk much about the rational dimension of prayers, but rather share with you my personal approach to prayers.

We Are What Our Bodies Express....

As human beings, we have different bodies and shapes. Therefore, we behave also distinctively. When we pray, we also differ greatly from each other. There are those who prefer the rosaries or formulated prayers. Others feel the need to pray in silence. Then there are also people who are most comfortable when they pray with the Bible. Many bodies need various forms of prayer. All these forms are good as long as they help us to converse with God, our friend.

What About The Distraction During Prayers?

Regardless of the many forms of prayers, there is one thing common to all of us: We sometimes experience all sorts of distractions during our prayer. Life is never without worries. For me, the most disturbing distraction during my prayer is not so much about serious things, but rather about banalities, such as the food I ate yesterday or a comment another person made against me. Perhaps you might experience financial distress, difficulties in your relationship or you might be angry about the bad choices you have made. What can we do about it? Again, there are different ways to answer this question. Let me tell you about my own way of handling this issue. The first thing I do is to acknowledge the distraction because I have a body with many senses or emotions, such as anger and joy. We can never have control over our feelings or emotions. If we do, we are no longer humans. So I accept the distraction which is part of me being human. You see, when we talk with our friends, we sometimes moved off from the main topic. However, a true friend wouldn’t mind it because it keeps the conversation alive. It is the same when we pray to God. We experience certain distractions. Yet, I bring this distraction into the awareness of God when I pray.

Which Technique Do I Use?

When I pray, I sit down and let my various thoughts run its course. I do not fear about these thoughts or feelings, even though they might be inappropriate. The important thing is that I am aware of the presence of God. If He is my friend, why should I not tell Him how I feel and what really moves me? If He is my friend, He would understand me? So I sit there and become passive by not trying to stop my thoughts and feelings. But do the distractions disappear then? How do I bring my distractions into God’s awareness? Sometimes, in the presence of God, I write these things down which appear to distract me. In the process of writing them down, you already consciously reflect and discern about the magnitude and non-value of these things. You will see that the distraction will become less and less.

After perhaps five minutes, one particular issue among the many thoughts crystallises as my main concern. This is perhaps the thing I am too afraid to speak about with my human friend. And this will be the issue I want to talk with God my friend. I would ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide me into an in-depth conversation with God.

Do I Always Know The Answer From God?

Sometimes parishioners would come to me and ask me this question: How do I know that God speaks to me? If I know exactly God’s answer, then I would be a prophet. Yet, God speaks to us in signs. However, they need to be interpreted as well because signs can have many meanings. And it can take a while to understand the meanings of the signs. Let me give you an example. Once I prayed for my dying aunty who I loved dearly. I wanted God to rescue her immediately. Yet, he seemed to not listen to my petition. And my aunty passed away leaving behind her three teenage children who my cousins. I was as heartbroken as my three cousins. Over the years I learnt that my three cousins have developed an intimate bond with each other. Left behind as orphans, they have learnt to support each other whenever they can. They sacrificed their lives for each other. My three cousins are now parents themselves. Their children are as just close as they were at the time when their own mother, my aunty, had died some decades ago. Later, my dad told me that before my aunty died, she had asked my dad to pray daily for her children so that they remain close to each other.

This little story tells me one thing: God may not answer immediately to my request. But, over the years, I can see how he was present in the lives of my three cousins. So, we need to be patient when we try to unravel the signs. Never make a conclusion in haste. One day, everything will fit into a coherent picture.