#Prayer is the reflection for February 8, 2015. There are other beings than human beings.  No, it is not science fiction, but it still is.  The “Other” being can have an impact on how, when and where you engage in this thing called “Prayer”  It may change the way and place you talk to God. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #Prayer #HowTo

 For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday,   2/8/2015 The 5th   Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Please pause this audio and read Mark 1:29-39.

          As a spiritual director, the most frequent issue that comes up over and over again is that of prayer. At first, people ask how to pray. People feel inadequate in prayer. We don’t know what to say. Or, we say rote prayers and complain that there is no meaning to them. Or, we pray as if God were an abstract principle to which we should adhere our lives. There are many other things that trip us up, but let’s get started about prayer from here.

          First, we need to establish that prayer is communication between living beings. Prayer is not a laundry list of items we would like God to have washed, starched and pressed before we return at the end of the day. Nor, is prayer a begging session. Prayer is communication with a being who lives forever, knows more and better than we do, and is in love with us.

          A Catholic client of mine asked me how to pray a novena to a particular saint. I asked her, “well, do you believe that this saint is still alive?” She said, “I sure do, they are in heaven with Jesus Christ.” Then, I said, “Why don’t you talk to the saint like they are a living human being?” She replied, “Oh yeah, I am just getting used to the idea.”

          The reason that I am talking about prayer is because near the end of the passage for today, Mark says this, “In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” This passage follows a lot of activity: the healing Peter’s wife’s mother, the driving out of demons from all the people who were brought to him, and the curing of diseases. In the midst of a very busy life, our Lord went apart from everyone and prayed to the Father in Heaven.

Prayer is a relationship like Jesus’ relationship with the Father in Heaven. This we know, because Jesus continually returns to the Lord in prayer and makes statements that indicate he is wants the Father’s will. We, too, can and should do the same. Prayer is like any communication with a living being, we make a statement and wait for a response. We often times can be accused of talking over God, especially when it is not what we want to hear.

So, prayer requires listening. We see in the passage today that Jesus goes away to a quiet place to be away from everyone and everything.

People ask me, “Can I pray in my car on my way to work?” Well, sure, but if you want more than a topical conversation like you would have with someone sitting next to you in the car, then I would recommend that you do some active listening for God in a space in your home that is quiet and distraction free. When my clients come to my home for spiritual direction, even when they SKYPE with me for spiritual direction, I have a designated space where I turn off everything else and give my undivided attention to them. We are not God and cannot focus on more than one thing meaningfully at a time. So, a sacred place for prayer in our home is preferred, but a conversation with God should happen throughout the day—especially when we are busy.

          As we see with Jesus, prayer is set apart. Prayer is a safe place. This is important because prayer can be a really great thing for everyone, but especially for those who are struggling. Prayer is our own. It should be our own. It should not be what someone tells us to say unless we have asked for their recommendation. Because it is our own, we can be brutally honest. There is no need to tell God, “Yes, I love my neighbor,” when God knows our heart and knows we cannot stand our neighbor. I recommend to clients that they tell God the truth: “Lord, I cannot stand my neighbor. Please help me understand this.”

          Another element is that the Lord knows our hearts better than we do. Sometimes we have to ask the Lord to reveal to us what WE really want because we are so confused and conflicted we don’t even know. How can this happen anywhere but in a space set aside in our home and set aside in our heart?

          Another thing this passage tells us is that Jesus was an introvert on the Meyers Briggs Jungian Personality Type. Well, I am just making that observation that he goes away in prayer after everyone has had a share of him. I just noted how busy he had been before Mark tells us that he went away to pray. It looks to me like Jesus is going away to recharge his batteries. Where else is it better to recharge our batteries than in the presence and love of God?

I believe that the phenomena of people disavowing organized religion is in part the portrayal of God that we have heard out of some religious circles: God is only a master to be served and obeyed. What if we understood God as a source of energizing love and mercy? What if we understood God as the one who held us accountable with a sigh and a sadness rather than a rod and a staff up against our heads or a ruler across our knuckles?

When I was on a five day retreat two years ago, I never realized how far from God as my lover I had come. My spirituality is mystical. Meditation, contemplation and intimacy are at the root of my prayer life. Yet, it had seemed that for eleven years, after being kicked in the head over and over again, I was left knowing that God loved me, but not feeling it. My spiritual director challenged me over that five day silent retreat to stop trying to please the Lord and to let the Lord love me. The thought was something I knew and the challenge of a spiritual director to let it happen revealed to me how wounded I had been and how much that love from God was needed.

          Part of the difficulty of preaching on this passage is there are so many topics which we could talk about but not one topic that is handled in depth. What we can see here is that after all the activity, before they moved on, Jesus’ life is centered in prayer. Ours should be, as well.

          After I recap, I want to make a few suggestions for how to better a prayer life:

  1. 1.Prayer is communication with a live being: God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
  2. 2.Prayer is a relationship and we should talk to God like it is.
  3. 3.Prayer requires listening.
  4. 4.Listening requires prayer to be in a space set apart.
  5. 5.Prayer is our own and we must be honest with God and ourselves.
  6. 6.Prayer can reveal our own heart to us.
  7. 7.Prayer is a source of renewal—God is a source of love.

Let me make a suggestion or two:

  1. 1.Set aside a routine time to pray. I pray my first time of the day before I even get out of bed. I want my first thought to be for God.
  2. 2.Set aside a space in your home or your room that is for prayer only. Maybe have a basket or a table with your Bible, prayer book or other spiritual growth items there.
  3. 3.Turn off the gadgets.
  4. 4.Enter the prayer time with anticipation that something good is going to come out of your encounter with the Lord.

Pray, friend, it is amazing when you do. Amen.

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