Luke 11:1 NLT
Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Prayer is a challenge. In principle it looks so simple. Approach God, worship him and and lay at his feet the concerns we each carry. God will hear and respond. However, here the battle begins for me. It has three distinct levels.
First, I find it difficult to maintain my focus upon God. I am easily distracted and allow my mind to wander. So having started out focusing on God I too readily find myself a million miles distant as my mind processes a conversation from yesterday or some outstanding task that awaits me today. I haul myself back before God, only to daydream once again. I feel dissatisfied and assume God finds it difficult to assess the seriousness of my prayerful intention.
Next I find myself wrestling with the nature of God’s will. I have ideas about what I want God to do in response to my prayer. Top up my bank account, heal my friend from a brain tumour, lift the cloud of depression surrounding another. I enter into a dialogue with myself over the extent to which this is my will or God’s will. And to what extent the two might be synonymous. The dialogue threatens to take over my prayer, taking my attention away from God and creating inner tension.
Finally, somewhat exhausted, I conclude my prayer with a sense of defeat, knowing it has largely been about my own, rather than God’s, presence in the place of prayer.
Observing Jesus disappear to pray, the disciples no doubt made their own attempts yet recognised that Jesus was a master of personal prayer, so they asked for his help. Only as I have appealed to the source and the focus of our prayer, Jesus, have I discovered a peaceful prayer space within which my three distractions have been dealt with. I encourage you to approach Jesus with a desire to discover how to pray and leave aside your own assumptions and desires. For prayer is taking time in the presence of God and, as we shall see, using Jesus’ template prayer to guide us effectively in our prayer endeavours.
QUESTION: How would you describe your prayer life?
PRAYER: Lord, during this Novena, teach me more about how to pray.