My spiritual director asked me this question during one of our meetings. We were talking over Zoom, and it was pleasant to see the trees behind her in Arizona nearly line up with the tree outside my window in Ohio. As we talked about the past few weeks, dipping gracefully into theology and pastoral care as the conversation merited, she asked me this simple yet wonderful question.
What is prayer like? Describe it step-by-step. What does it feel like when it goes well? What does it feel like when prayer doesn’t go well? I told my director what it was like for me when a prayer goes well. First, all the thoughts and distractions which usually tug me away from prayer like schoolchildren at the end of a school day, are instead scooped up like children into the arms of the Father. Myself, the entirely of my thoughts and my being, whether good or bad, is present in the mode of prayer. A stillness arises once these thoughts are all addressed, often merely by the sense of Christ’s presence. Like the waves of the sea, my worries recede, and babbling petitions begin. I let a tsunami of words fall out before finally, I am fully still. In the past I would then just sit calmly, waiting for some sign within myself of God’s voice, God’s will, for this moment. But as I’ve grown I find myself more and more peeking out of my closed eyelids, knowing that all that it is precisely in everything around me, the people and things that make my life, that God lets His will be known. I am finally left with a gentle pain, like some umbilical cord being snipped, as everything around me turns from the brilliance of knowing God is in this place, back to God being in this mundane place and I know it not. Still, there is a wholesomeness to the ending of these kinds of prayers. I am left fuller knowing that prayers could be such, and to receive a taste of what it will be like to see God face-to-face.
What excited me the most as I explained this sort of prayer, is that my spiritual director, or my housemate, or any sort of person I pass along the street, could and likely does pray. I believe that as we become more and more like God in our goodness, so too does the sort of goodness that exudes from us becomes more and more different from one another; we become more fully and uniquely ourselves as we draw closer to God. Because of this, I wonder how marvelous it would be to know how other people, and particularly those far enough in faith to know what it is to be in God’s presence, would describe it as? What a marvelous thing it is to know that each of us experiences God passionately, powerfully, and differently, and each might one day be the guide for the other into knowing more about our Good Father.
What does prayer look like for you? What is the presence of God like? Try to describe it. What do you think prayer is like for your family? Friends?