Does prayer sometimes feel like the hardest thing in the world?
If I’m going to talk to God, I feel like I should know what to say. I need to get it right, to say things that make sense and sound halfway intelligent. After all, this is God—the Creator of all that is!—I’m talking to.
Of course, the good/bad news is that God already knows I don’t make much sense and that I almost never know the right things to say. So, I often have wondered, where does that leave me?
I recently returned from a Franciscan pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome, and the time I spent there is helping me see some things differently.
Our pastoral leader, Father John Quigley, OFM, is perhaps the best homilist I’ve had the privilege of hearing. We celebrated Mass every day on pilgrimage, and John had a gift for tying all things Franciscan to so many of the spiritual topics that seem to trouble me.
In one homily, he discussed the idea of contemplative prayer. He called to mind a speaker he once heard who used the image of a child visiting her grandmother and taking a nap upstairs. The child awakens, slightly confused about where she is, and she wanders down to the kitchen to find Grandma. The grandmother turns around and, upon seeing her little loved one, exclaims, “There you are!”
Grandma’s face brightens, and she embraces the child, simply because the child is there and she is happy to spend time with the young one.
That, John explained, is what God does for us when we simply … just … are.
When we sit quietly with God, without knowing what to say or how to say it, God sees us, and he acknowledges us with love and a warm welcome. “There you are!”
I love this image. I love the idea that I am free just to be me and have it be enough. I feel liberated by the idea that just showing up and saying to God, “I’m here,” is actually OK.
I had a moment of thinking that maybe, for all these years, I’ve been getting it right (or at least right enough) just by trying.
So often our world tells us the opposite. How often are we reminded that we’re not good enough, smart enough, rich enough, skinny enough, strong enough, productive enough? Whatever “it” is, we’re not enough of it.
But with God, the playing field is level. All we have to do is be.
All we have to do is say to God, “Here I am.” And he will find us, wrap us in a warm embrace and rejoice in the chance to spend time with us.