Prayer 101: Stop, and let God find you

As we make our way through the season of Lent, we are often reminded that this journey is one of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The funny thing is that while we are encouraged to pray, many people have a hard time doing it. As I’ve been reflecting on this, I am reminded of a priest by the name of Father Larry Gillick. Father Larry is a Jesuit who lives and works at Creighton University, and who offers spiritual direction at the Institute for Priestly Formation in Omaha, Nebraska. He’s been physically blind since childhood, but he has “eyes to see” as a spiritual giant.
He likes to tell a story about how he was on vacation walking in a familiar neighborhood, but somehow gets lost and doesn’t know what to do. He’s a priest, so he prays - asking God what He wants him to do. Lo and behold, he gets an answer. God tells him to sit down in the middle of the street. When he heard that, Father Larry says, “That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard in my life.” And God said, “Put yourself in a position to be found.” So he goes into the street, sits down and waits. Suddenly, he hears a car approaching. The car comes to a stop. It turns out that it was a couple who knew him! They asked what he was doing. He simply said he was lost and was putting himself in a position to be found.
My friends, this is a foundational principle in spiritual life. When it comes to prayer, sometimes we can get so preoccupied with thinking about all the things we have to do, not realizing that the only thing you absolutely have to do is to let God find you. When you are lost, when you aren’t sure where to go, when you have all kinds of questions about life, when you’re struggling with something, when you’re happy, when you’re upset, wherever you are in your life, STOP and put yourself in a position to be found. God is already there waiting for you. He never tires of opening the door of His heart. 
God is waiting for us, and what’s great is that God calls us first. In prayer, His initiative of love always comes first. We don’t have to do all this work when it comes to prayer; our own first step is simply a response - we just need to show up. So, if that’s true, then what is prayer? Prayer is simply responding to the God who is already there, and receiving what He wants to bestow upon us.
What should we do before we pray? First, we need to find the right time. Making time for God regularly is fundamental for spiritual growth. It will be the Lord Himself who gives us the taste for His mysteries, His words, His presence and His actions. He will enable us to understand more deeply what He expects of us. For any relationship to work, it requires time. We need to give God time. Consider these questions: When during the day are you most receptive/alert? What time of day are you most uninterrupted? What time of day is most consistently open for you? These questions can help you to establish a sense of when to pray.
Second, we must be intentional about what we are going to use for prayer. It is a wonderful thing for us to use the substance of our lives for prayer: your thoughts, your feelings, what happened to you, what someone said to you, and to simply bring it to the Lord. You can also use Scripture passages: try using the readings for daily Mass, the readings for the upcoming Sunday, simply start reading through the gospels, or try finding a Psalm that matches your mood. We are intentional and deliberate about choosing other things in our lives (like vacations), so we should be just as intentional in choosing the substance of our prayer.
Third, pay attention to your desires. St. Augustine used to say that prayer is an exercise of desire. Our lives are busy and hectic and when we finally settle down in prayer, we should pay close attention to the deepest desires of our heart. Consider, what comes into your heart? What do you want? Offer that desire, that yearning to the Lord. Ask Him for it. Our Lord desires us and He desires our greatest happiness. Therefore, He wants to dialogue with you. He wants to pursue you. We get tired with people all the time, but God never tires of us.
Whether you have done a great job so far this Lent, or you feel stumped, why not try out a little prayer? Put yourself in a place to be found. Give Jesus your time, give Him your desires, and let Him do all the rest.

God bless,
Very Rev. Christopher Stanish
Vicar General / Moderator of the Curia
Diocese of Gary