The Value of Presence: Part One
I was reminded recently that prayer is essentially communication and communication takes many forms. We naturally think of communication as language, words, speaking. However, much of our communication is non-verbal.
Think about some of your significant relationships.
You speak, by phone or in person, but you may also express your relationship in other ways: by preparing a meal, by going for a walk or drive, by listening, paying attention to what the other person wants to say.
You communicate by not rushing off to do something else, by a willingness to ‘waste time’ with the other person and of course our body language, our gestures, our faces communicate as much as our words the depth of our bonds with others.
So, when you pray (or struggle to pray) it may be helpful to remember that your prayer is fundamentally communication and, as in other relationships, your desire to communicate can find expression in a variety of forms; in a loving, intentional gesture or posture, in a quiet presence, in a willingness to ‘waste time’, in enjoying a walk through God’s masterpiece of creation, etc.
As we have multiple ways of communicating our loving bond to family and friends, so in our relationship with God we have many ways to communicate, and it goes without saying that God speaks to us in a variety of ways which include God’s Word revealed in scripture, our encounters with Christ in the sacraments and in worship, our fellowship with others in the community of believers, our reaching out to others in loving service, and in the love and service others give to us.
God communicates to us in the splendour, diversity and fragility of creation, which forms a kind of cosmic family of brothers and sisters in which every creature has a place. God speaks to us in the experience of mercy, of being reconciled and in our times of gratitude, as well as our times of struggle.
So, remember, communication is more than words, and that is why St. Paul can say ‘pray without ceasing’ (1 Thessalonians 5: 17), because prayer isn’t limited to what we say, it’s a way of communication. Prayer includes the many ways we intentionally reach out to God in love, responding to God’s prior reaching out to us.
We can reach out in love because God has reached out first (Cf. 1 John 4: 19-21)
Wishing you Peace and all good!
Friar Liam, OFM.