In the Gospel of John we read the following:
...And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always; the Spirit of truth...I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.... (John 14: 16-17a; 18)
These words, spoken by Jesus to his disciples shortly before he went to his death must have been consoling for the disciples. In Jesus' time, orphans were a sorry lot. There were no orphanages or government agencies dedicated to serving children; orphans were left to whatever the society would do for them which was very little. So being promised that they would not be left as orphans had to be a consolation. Jesus also promises that the Father will send another gift - the Spirit of truth to guide the disciples as they moved forward in their journey of faith.
What do we do with a gift we have received? We usually want to show it off and let others know what a great gift it has been. We also want to stay connected to the one who has given us the gift. What about the gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Are we grateful for the gift; do we want others to know how grateful we are? And how do we stay connected with the great gift-giver God? The primary way we do this is through prayer.
Prayer can take many forms. Some like to pray quietly in their rooms or while riding in the car; some while listening to music. Others may choose more formal prayer such as the Rosary. Whatever form of prayer we choose, it is important that we stay connected to the giver of all our gifts - God. For us as Catholic Christians, the most important way we can pray is by coming each week and joining around the eucharistic table. The Mass provides us with three important forms of prayer: we begin our liturgy with a recognition of our sinfulness and ask God's mercy and forgiveness; at the Prayer of the Faithful (or General Intercessions) we ask God for the needs of our Church, the world, our community and ourselves. Then we come to the central part of the liturgy when we offer again to the Father his Son, Jesus, in the eucharistic prayer - a prayer of thanksgiving. So we have the prayers for forgiveness, prayers of petition and prayers of thanksgiving.
These types of prayers should be a part of our own personal prayer as well. At times we need to ask forgiveness for sins we have committed. We are always in need and can go to our Father with our requests, and we should never forget to offer thanks for all that we have been given. But some times our prayer life may become dry or sterile; we may find it difficult to pray.
The story is told of a missionary in a third world country who was assigned a car when he arrived at the mission. The car, however, would not go without first being pushed. To assist him in doing this, he arranged with the local school to have some of the older children push off his car when he began his mission rounds. Then he would either park on a hill or leave the car running as he made his rounds. This went on for two years. Poor health required that he leave the mission. He greeted his replacement and proceeded to tell him about the car problem. At this point, the new missionary popped open the hood of the car and found a loose cable. He tightened the cable, got into the car and when he turned the ignition the car immediately started. The problem had been a loose cable; the missionary had had a loose connection.
Sometimes we have a loose connection in our prayers. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us find the problem and fix it. It may simply be that we need to find some time each day to spend in prayer with our God.
There are so many ways we stay connected these days: cell phones, texting, e-mail and the Internet. This blog, for example, through the power of the Internet has reached over forty countries around the world and it does so in an instant. But we don't need to text God or send him an e-mail. God is always ready to receive our prayer; all we have to do is open ourselves to hear God's message to us and to respond in our hearts.
One way we can offer our whole day to the Lord as prayer is something called the "Morning Offering." It is a prayer that I have found to be a wonderful way to begin the day by offering all that we do (except our sinful acts) as a prayer. The prayer can be something like this:
O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I offer you all my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day in union with your Sacred Heart and in thanksgiving for all the gifts I have received from you.
A man was wandering around heaven one day when he had a vision of a church preparing to celebrate the liturgy down on earth. He could see the priest opening his mouth to offer the prayers but he couldn't hear anything. He saw the choir stand, opening their mouths to sing while he saw the organist's fingers play across the keys but he could hear nothing. Jesus happened by at the moment and the man asked him why he couldn't hear anything coming from the vision. Jesus replied, "Unless they sing and pray with their hearts, we cannot hear them up here."
May we always sing and pray with our hearts; may we always stay connected to our loving and amazing God.