Archdiocese of Mobile

Entering into a Conversation of Prayer

Sometimes I will ask a group of teenagers whether they believe that God hears them when the pray. Almost every hand goes up.
Then I will ask them whether they believe that they can hear God when they pray. A few hands go up; most do not. The group begins to feel a little uncomfortable. One young person may ask me if I have ever heard God speak to me. I answer, “Yes.” Now it can really begin to feel uncomfortable in the room.
Another teen may ask: “You’ve heard God speak to you?” He is looking at me trying to figure out if I am some sort of holy mystic or simply, sadly delusional. I am neither. The fact is that when we pray, we can hear God. We will not hear God with our ears, but can hear God with our heart.
When I was in grade school, we were taught that prayer is a “conversation with God.” A conversation is two people speaking, not merely one. However, we were not taught how to talk with God, only how to talk to God. I do not criticize how I was taught religion. One must walk before one can run. In the words of St. Paul: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” (1 Cor 13:11) In other words, just as we mature in every other area of our lives (physically, socially, intellectually and culturally) we should also mature spiritually. We may have been taught only to speak to God, but as we mature, we are to grow into opening our hearts to God so that God may speak with us.
Have you ever had a “conversation” with another person and the other person did all the talking? Have you ever met someone that it was hard to get a word in when they started talking? That may describe our prayer with God. So often we do all the talking and all God can do is listen. Yet who has more to say? God has so much to say to us. Somehow we think that if we don’t tell God things, God won’t know. Yet Jesus taught us: “… your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Mt 6:8) God knows what is in our hearts. It is for us to find out what God wants to place in our hearts.
So how do we speak with God? The same way we speak to anyone. We talk and we listen. We make time to talk with God. We ask God to work within us. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.” We ask God to help us. “Give us this day our daily bread.” We ask God to pardon our sins and to help us to forgive others. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We ask God for strength in living our faith. “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
Then we spend time being quiet and letting God speak. God does not mock prayer. If we take the time to be still, He will speak. God is not a faucet that we can turn on and off. We cannot tell God when He is to speak. In His love and wisdom He decides when and how to speak with us, and not according to our plans; but God will speak. If we pause, even for a few minutes each day and quietly let God speak to our hearts, God will do so. Again, we will not hear God with our ears. Instead, we will hear Him in the “small voice inside us” that will teach us what is right and what is wrong. He will speak to us in leading us to clarity when everything in life seems confused. He will show us how to forgive the person whom we thought we could never forgive. He will give us strength when we are weary and even exhausted with the challenges of life. He will give us courage to face our fears. He will give us comfort when sorrow seems to overwhelm us. He will tell us that we are not alone when we feel abandoned. In short, He will speak deep within our hearts.
Please take the time, even if at first it is only a few moments a day, and listen and enter into a conversation of prayer.