If any part of your life has been devoted to working on growing your spiritual walk, you should have some familiarity with the bible and its living wisdom. For Christians in general and Catholics in particular, it is simply pivotal to your faith. You might have chosen to be unfamiliar with this book, and if that is the case, you are multiplying your ignorance and decreasing your ability to be the best Catholic you can be. It’s kind of like claiming that you are a carpenter by trade but you don’t own a saw!
The bible teaches life habits and fills us with clues about how to get to know God and have an “abundant life”. It is more than just a good thing to be able to tell people you have read at cocktail parties. The information it provides comes to shape the way we think – which spills over into how we live, as well as the kind of witness we are in the world. The secrets of life are there in plain sight in the scriptures. God has the generous ability to give us the information that we long for in a million different ways. We must become spiritually skilled at recognizing this “pipeline” when it comes near us. You might have noticed that the scriptures constantly admonish us to pray. Prayer is the “it”, the primary tool that the Lord has given us. Prayer is dialog and a learned skill that will give us access to the way God thinks. But, how do you develop better hearing?
The first person one should be checking with regarding a prayer dilemma is one’s prayer partner or spiritual director. The Lord will give them plenty of opinions, questions and clues that will help you figure it out. They know your prayer habits and can be helpful if you’re really seeking to clarify the journey. As I mentioned, God’s info can also arrive from crazy places like a person who doesn’t even know you’re praying about a certain item or in something that you hear in the media.
This is a phenomenon that the “charismatic culture” calls: “confirmation”. In short this happens when we are pondering or praying over a question, and we really want an answer that doesn’t leave us wondering if that was the answer. It can happen in a variety of ways but it usually occurs when we either hear, see or notice the exact same quote, teaching, information turn up in two or more completely different situations that don’t even know each other. Maybe one of those occurrences is even a situation that has nothing to do with religion or prayer, such as a TV ad, quote from a non-believing friend or a word from a complete stranger. Maybe even a piece of information that is exactly the same which you hear from unrelated sources that do not even know each other. Your head says “yikes I’ve heard that before”. Most likely that’s the Lord saying “Yoo-hoo, trying to get your attention”. I’ve had this gift from the Lord scores of times over the years and I know it to be genuine. Learning how to spot it is another thing. Paying heed to that stuff becomes habit after a while especially if you have a daily prayer discipline going-on.
Next, there’s the art of “nothing”. This passage: “Peace* I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (Jn 14:27), is a pivotal tool for those pursuing a prayer discipline. It’s kind of the final piece that comes into focus after you have been at it for a while. The “Peace of the Lord” can be a really accurate discernment tool. You have to learn to recognize it, though. It can manifest after you have been working on something for a while. One day you wake up and that niggling worry you had about an issue is completely gone. Or you really pray about something, and a few days later you realize that you have forgotten about it and you’re good with that. Or an item that has given you a lot of stress doesn’t bother you at all any more. These are all occasions of the “Lord’s peace.” You didn’t get the answer you expected but your spirit “knows” that the Lord’s got it and that’s a good thing. He’s smarter than we are and we have to be a little brave and exercise that trust.
So, prayer is kind of like romance. Between you and God, it takes a while to learn all of the smallest and most loving details. The Bible is the set of instructions. Listening is key, practice makes perfect and sometimes the dialog is the tiniest whisper. Once learned, though, the skills will change your life in ways you never imagined and fill your spirit with the blessed assurance that God has “got you” every minute of every day and every night.
Copyright© 2016, Kathryn M. Cunningham