Culture of Life
How 15 Minutes of Prayer Can Change Your Life
Why Daily Dialogue With the Lord Should Be a Priority
BY Father James Duncan
Nov. 17-30, 2013 Issue | Posted 11/16/13 at 7:27 AM
In today’s secular world, where many have little or no thought of God, there are still those who desire a true, authentic relationship with God.
Many observe his Ten Commandments, attend Mass faithfully on Sundays and holy days and pray daily. Some even attend Mass during the week.
But in spite of that, they may have the impression that something is lacking in their relationship with God, that it could be deeper and more intimate.
Much is said today regarding interpersonal relationships, which, after all, are essential to human life. Each life consists of a complex network of relationships with other persons, relationships determined by birth, marriage, employment, studies and any number of other circumstances that connect people to other people.
But these relationships, whatever their nature and source, can only become profound and stable if they receive the required care, if one gives them the attention that they need. Our relationships with others require a continuous effort on our part if they are to be truly authentic and durable.
Our Relationship With God
But what about our relationship with God? If interpersonal relationships are fundamental, essential to human life, then isn’t the Triune God, in whose image we are made, the model of interpersonal relationships?
If dialogue is essential between human persons in order to maintain relationships that are healthy and strong, we should not be surprised to find that the same thing is true regarding our relationship with God. In fact, the dialogue and the interaction necessary to the maintenance of healthy relationships between human persons are inspired by and modeled after the Divine dialogue perpetually going on in the interior of the Holy Trinity.
Just as it pertains to the very nature of the divine Persons of the Trinity to be in permanent dialogue between themselves — and human relationships depend on the existence and the quality of the dialogue that maintains them — the same principle holds true regarding the relationship of the human person with the tri-personal God.
Dialogue With God
In order to maintain a true, profound, healthy and truly living relationship between the human person and God, dialogue — constant contact — is absolutely essential. And in order to enjoy a true dialogue with the Lord, we need to spend time in his company, exactly as we do with our friends and our loved ones.
And it is precisely this that is often lacking in the life of the sincere and faithful Catholic of whom we spoke in the beginning. Indeed, many believe firmly in God and are faithful to the obligations that derive from our faith, the commandments, Mass, etc. Unfortunately, in spite of this, for some, God remains more a concept than the subject of a personal relationship.
But to grow spiritually, to become what God wants us to be, it is absolutely essential that we have a personal relationship with him — so we need to spend quality time with him every day, in order to maintain, deepen and strengthen our relationship with our Creator.
Means of Dialogue
What must we do, then, if we really wish to spend time with Jesus, the incarnate Son, who reveals God to us (John 1:18)? It is not at all complicated or difficult.
We need simply to imitate Mary of Bethany, who left everything else in order to come and sit at his feet (Luke 10:39). Just as she did, we need to reserve a few minutes of our day, however busy and overloaded it might be, in order to withdraw from everything else, to be silent and to remain seated at his feet.
We need to be alone with him, the eternal Guest of our soul and our only true treasure. When we do this, we are simply following Jesus’ advice: "When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret" (Matthew 6:6).
And St. John of the Cross, the great master of mystical prayer, in his Ascent of Mount Carmel, advises us to choose the place for our prayer that offers the least distractions to our senses and to our spirit as it turns to God.
In like manner, St. Ignatius of Loyola reminds us, in his Spiritual Exercises, that "the more our soul finds itself alone and isolated, the more apt it makes itself to approach and to reach its Creator and Lord."
In these most precious — and most fruitful — moments of our day, we need to abandon all thoughts of the world and created things. We must put them far from our hearts, which we must reserve exclusively for God.
As we know, those who love each other profoundly have no need to speak constantly. It is quite enough for them that they should just be together, totally present to each other. The deepest love is often silent. We should be content to be silent with our God.
To spend time with Jesus, then, we may take the New Testament or a book such as The Imitation of Christ and withdraw to a quiet corner, where, slowly, contemplatively, we read a passage from our chosen text and listen to the word of God, being attentive to whatever the Lord might wish to communicate to us through the text.
If the text inspires us to speak to him, we can speak freely, in complete confidence, but it is not essential to speak. Indeed, we may simply rest in his presence, grateful for the divine Love that he so abundantly bestows upon us (appropriate to recall at Thanksgiving time).
The Fruit of Dialogue
Just 15 minutes spent with the Lord every day will change our lives in a marvelous and mysterious manner.
Jesus will become more important to us than anything or anyone else. And it is right and good that it should be so!
Did he not say that whoever loves father, mother or children more than him is not worthy of him (Matthew 10:37)?
Jesus will become someone whom we really know, someone who loves us infinitely and whom we shall learn to love more.
Our daily dialogue with the Lord will help us to accomplish this, because, in the time that we spend with him, Jesus will teach us to love as he himself loves.
But for this to happen, we need to be faithful to the 15 minutes that we spend with him.
And if we are faithful to this practice, we shall discover one day that we have become a different person, someone who lives on a different level, who lives in constant union with God. And then we shall understand that these minutes spent with Jesus every day have not only changed our lives — they have enriched them immeasurably.
Jesuit Father James Duncan writes from Belgium.
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