Prayer as Relationship

One of the things I frequently emphasize in talks I give is that prayer is a two-way relationship. It is not a monologue with one person doing all of the talking. Prayer involves not only our speaking with God, but letting God speak to us, letting God speak to our hearts.

In her book Experiencing God’s Tremendous Love, Sr. Maureen Connolly describes four dynamics of relational prayer. They are: looking, sharing, listening, and responding. We want to begin our prayer, she suggests by looking at God and getting a sense of how God is looking at us, experiencing his loving gaze. We then share whatever it is that is on our mind, after which we sit and give God a chance to communicate back to us. (This third step has to be emphasized because we too often fill our prayer with our desires, with our agenda, without given God a chance to speak to us. Our attitude must more and more reflect the words of Samuel: “Speak, God, your servant is listening.”)

Finally, we need to respond. As we enter into relationship with God, as we look at, share with, and listen to God, it is usually the case that some reaction arises in us. We may feel joy, greater love for God, gratitude, or we may feel fear, or anger. The next step is how we will move from those somewhat passive reactions to active personal responses. Our spontaneous reaction becomes a response to God when we choose to do something with the reaction that arises.

Our new pastor presented a slightly different version of Connolly’s steps in his first weekend sermon in our parish and gave a short reprise this past weekend. He termed it “praying like a pirate,” which I think was particularly effective for some of the younger folks in the pews.

Praying like a pirate, “ARRR” for short, involves, he explained, acknowledging, relating, receiving and responding. We acknowledge some area of our life that needs our attention with God, we relate to God what we need to about that situation or area, we receive what it is God wants to communicate with us, and we respond.

The steps can be formulated in different ways. The important thing to remember is that prayer is a two-way conversation and we need to let God get a word and not monopolize the conversation.

This is a reminder we can all use. It is a fitting reminder to myself this morning, as I begin the first full day of my annual 8-day retreat at the beautiful Jesuit Retreat House in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where I arrived late yesterday aftenoon. Please keep me in your prayers.