by Deacon Des When Jesus was on earth He set an example by praying often. He prayed for guidance, He prayed for his disciples and followers, He prayed in gratitude and praise, He prayed when He instituted the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane, and when He was on the Cross. The Greek word for Christian Χριστιανός (Christianos) means “Follower of Christ”, so being a Christian means believing and following the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, it means striving to live our lives as He did, and so just as Jesus often prayed, we too need to pray. Prayer is our opportunity to communicate and build a relationship with God. Some years ago a priest Fr. Stephen Doyle, wrote this imaginative dialogue, it went like this: “Charlie, how is your wife?” “She’s fine, I think.” “What do you mean you think? Don’t you know how she is?” “Well, she and I don’t talk much.” “Why? Have you two had a fight? Are you not getting along?” “Oh, no, everything is fine; we just don’t talk to each other that much.” “How can things be fine, if you don’t even communicate?” “Really, everything is just perfect; we just don’t feel the need to talk to each other.” If you overheard that conversation, you would be convinced that Charlie’s marriage was in serious trouble. Because when there is no communication, there can be no relationship. So why should it be any different, in our relationship with Jesus? When we meet someone that we want to get to know better, we agree on times and places to meet in the future, we don’t just leave it to chance that we might meet somewhere. We set dates, times and places where we are going to meet. It is exactly the same with getting to know Jesus better, we need to set times and places to meet with Him in prayer. St. Teresa of Avila said: “Prayer in my opinion, is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him, who we know loves us.” Building a relationship with God is similar to building relationships with people around us, we need to have regular conversations with them and these conversations need to go both ways; we talk, and then we listen. It is the same with God. Prayer gives us the opportunity to tell God how we are feeling, ask for guidance, assistance and answers to questions, but it is also an opportunity for us to quieten ourselves and listen to what He has to say to us. One of the best stories about listening comes from the Depression years. Those were years when vast numbers of people were unemployed. A man saw an ad for a telegraph operator. He hurried to the address in the ad, but when he got there the room was jammed with applicants. The man felt disheartened, but as he stood there wondering what to do, he heard a steady flow of dots and dashes over the heavy drone of conversations going on. Suddenly, his eyes lit up. He dashed over to a door marked “Private,” turned the doorknob, and went inside. In a few minutes, he came out smiling, he had the job. The employer then told the rest of the applicants that they could leave. Well, as you might imagine, there was an angry outcry from the group. “We demand an explanation,” someone shouted. “This young man comes in late, jumps the queue, and you hire him.” The employer paused a moment, and then said, “All you have to do is listen to the dots and dashes, and you will have your explanation.” Everyone stopped and listened. Over and over the dots and dashes repeated the same message it had been repeating for an hour: “If you hear this come in, the job is yours. If you hear this come in, the job is yours.” Jesus speaks to us often. He speaks to us through Scriptures, through other people, through events, and directly to our own inner self. Unfortunately, like the applicants in the room, we are normally so busy doing the talking, that we forget to listen and so don’t hear Him. So, just as we talk and share with our best friends about what is happening in our lives, so we must talk and share with Jesus, and just as we listen to our friends, so too must we listen to Jesus. One characteristic of Catholic prayer is that every moment of the day can and should be a time of prayer, and that is why the Church recommends that we make prayer a part of our everyday lives, all our hopes, our works, our joys, and our suffering, can and should become our prayer. Many years ago a group of seminarians were gathered and their Novice Master instructed them, “Now remember, you are not allowed to chew gum while you are praying.” One of the seminarians asked, “But, Father, is it okay to pray, while we’re chewing gum?” “Of course,” the Novice Master replied. This story illustrates that prayer must be both an activity on its own, formal, structured, as when we pray in church, during Mass, or when we use traditional prayers, but it must also be informal, as a way of living out our daily life, like when we pray in our gardens, while going for a walk, in the shower, or driving in our car. We don’t pray to inform God about of our lives, but to involve Him in our lives, We don’t pray to change God to our way of thinking, but to allow Him to change us, We don’t pray to get our will done, but to allow God’s will to be done on earth, We don’t pray because God needs us, but because we need Him, love Him and want to share our lives with Him. It is a simple fact that we cannot call ourselves Christians and not pray, if we say we love Jesus and don’t pray – we lie! About the Author Deacon Des Eyden Did my schooling in Durban. Once married moved to Pietermaritzburg, was there for 28 years and was ordained at St Mary’s Parish in Pietermarizburg. Have three adult children and three grand children who all live in Cape Town. Moved to Cape Town 3 years ago where I am the Deacon at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish. Disclaimer: Teach Me articles are not necessarily written by trained theologians and are merely aimed at enlightening the reader and prompt discussion and dialogue. If you would like to share your opinions or give us feedback, please contact us via email, Twitter or Facebook.