At times, people say to me, “Fr. Mark, I just don’t hear Jesus speak to me. I do not hear his voice.”
When I hear this, I ask them to describe their life of prayer to me and often they are saying prayers but not praying. They are not sharing their feelings, thoughts and desires with Jesus and allowing Jesus to speak to them in the silence of their hearts.
And more often than not they are not reading the Scriptures either. It is in silence and in the Scriptures — the word of God — that Jesus speaks to our hearts.
Pope Francis says about the word of God, “Take it, carry it with you, and read it every day, it is Jesus himself who is speaking to you…. The important thing is to read the word of God, by any means, but read the word of God. It is Jesus who speaks to us there. Welcome it with an open heart. Then the good seed will bear fruit!”
At Pastoral Ministry Days in 2016, Msgr. Thomas Richter, rector of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck, gave us a simple guide to help us spend time every day in prayer, reading, listening and hearing Jesus speak to us through His life-giving Word.
We read in Hebrews, “Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account” (Heb 4:12-13).
The best way I know how to hear the voice of Jesus speaking to me in the depths of my heart is to spend time with him every day, in silence, reading and listening to his words in the Scriptures. The problem is that most of us are not faithful and consistent to a regular pattern of daily prayer, and then we wonder why we never hear Jesus speak to our hearts.
In his book “The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic: How Engaging 1% of Catholics Could Change the World,” Matthew Kelly says that Dynamic Catholics, which are about 7 percent of all Catholics, have a regular routine time for prayer. What does this mean? Kelly says, “They tend to pray the same time every day and they tend to pray in the same place every day.”
Kelly goes on to say that “most people when they pray sit down and see what happens, and of course very often nothing happens. So they get frustrated and stop praying. When Dynamic Catholics sit down to pray they don’t just see what happens; they have a plan, they have a routine and routine within the routine.”
I challenge you to pray for a half hour every day, at the same time every day, and in the same place every day, for the next month. Be not afraid! Give it a try! Use the simple format that Msgr. Richter laid out for us as the plan for your 30 minutes of prayer every day.
I am also asking that you find a person, maybe it’s your spouse, a friend, a coworker, a parishioner or your pastor, to help keep you accountable to this new routine of prayer in your life. Are you willing to accept this challenge?
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website provides the daily readings: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/. While the site provides both readings and the Psalm, you can use any one of the Scriptures for the day in this prayer time. The site also offers an audio version for each of the day’s readings, which offers you an opportunity to share this prayer practice with someone who is visually impaired. See the guide below for other ideas.
Msgr. Richter’s Prayer Guide
“If I want to spend time with Jesus in daily prayer, what would it look like?”
This is what it would looks like … Below is a general outline of what personal prayer looks like in the hearts of prayerful people throughout the centuries. Follow the suggestions for committing to daily prayer.
Begin by meditating on the following quote “God calls man first. Man may forget his Creator or hide far from his face; he may run after idols or accuse the deity of having abandoned him; yet the living and true God tirelessly calls each person to that mysterious encounter known as prayer. In prayer, the faithful God’s initiative of love always comes first; our own first step is always a response. As God gradually reveals himself and reveals man to himself, prayer appears as a reciprocal call, a covenant drama. Through words and actions, this drama engages the heart. It unfolds throughout the whole history of salvation” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2567).
What do you want?
Look in your heart; look at your life. What do you want? What do you really want from God? Tell God right now what you need from him during this time of prayer.
Now read a passage from the Bible
Maybe it’s the day’s Psalm; maybe it’s one of the readings from the daily Mass; maybe it’s one of the readings for the upcoming Sunday Mass. Simply find a passage from Scripture. Read the passage slowly. Get familiar with the text. Read the passage a second time, this time reading even more slowly. Very, very slowly read the passage a third time. Pay attention to which word, words or phrases “tug” at your heart or get your attention.
Take some time now to think about your life
Think about the reality of your life. What word, words, or phrases from the Scripture passage speak to you? How does the Scripture passage connect to your life? Look deep within.
Next, talk to God
Share everything with Him. Talk to Him as you would talk to your most trusted friend. Talk to God like Moses did: “The Lord used to speak to Moses face-to-face, as one man speaks to another” (Ex 33:11).
Then listen — God will speak to you
Maybe God will speak to you through a thought in your head … or a song in your heart … or a memory … or a desire in your body. Listen with all your senses.
Return to the Scripture passage
Read it slowly one more time. What word, words, or phrases speak to you again?
What can you do?
Think about what you can do today, this week, to act upon what God has revealed to you. Practically speaking, in your real life, what can you do?
Thank the Lord
Finally, thank the Lord. Blessings are specific and so should be your gratitude. Tell God specifically what you’re thankful for.
Please do not become discouraged if what you had hoped for didn’t happen during a time of prayer. Don’t give up. This is about having a friendship with Jesus. Continue to practice the steps as you cultivate your daily prayer life.
Let me know how this approach to prayer works for you. Contact me at(605) 716-5214 ext. 233 or MMcCormick @diorc.org.