Letters to Brian: Learning to Look at Jesus

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Pricey Brian,

Thanks once more in your letter.  Your query, “How do I pray?” is one which has been echoing in my very own coronary heart for the final twenty years.

Evidently, I used to be deeply moved by it and I want to take it very severely.  In my view, that is crucial query one can ask in life.  The explanation for that is easy: prayer, in contrast to anything, reveals to us the reality about God and ourselves.

One might turn out to be rapidly overwhelmed, nonetheless, on the huge array of literature that exists on the subject of prayer.  There are numerous books, seminars, and podcasts on prayer.  One hears about Carmelite prayer, Franciscan prayer, Benedictine prayer, and so forth.  Additionally, prayer is commonly characterised as being both contemplative, meditative or vocal.  Then there are quite a few solutions and concepts about issues like posture, respiration, and materials to hope with.  Ought to I sit, ought to I stand, ought to I kneel, the place ought to I pray, and when?

Any individual who’s contemplating diving into this ocean we name prayer, can rapidly turn out to be overwhelmed and really feel like they’re drowning earlier than they even get their toes moist.  I’d counsel, within the meantime, that you just ignore every thing talked about above and easily perceive prayer as this: studying to have a look at Jesus and permitting him to look again at you.  That, I’m satisfied, is the essence of all prayer, no matter what type or form it takes.

I can keep in mind a couple of years in the past coming to the startling realization that in my official “prayer occasions” I used to be spending little time truly praying.  What was I doing?  I used to be daydreaming, worrying, planning, self-analyzing, and so forth.  Relatively than Jesus, I used to be myself.  I can keep in mind considering, “I should be in a darkish evening as a result of God seems absent to me!” I’d quickly uncover, nonetheless, that the darkness I used to be experiencing was the results of my very own self-obsession, which was stopping me from Him.  Therefore, God was not absent as I believed, I used to be.

Subsequently, it is vital, Brian, to do not forget that whether or not you might be praying with Scripture, in Eucharistic adoration, journaling, and so forth. that your focus must be on Jesus.  This would possibly appear to be an apparent level, but how tough it’s to do! Anybody trying to hope for 5 minutes will turn out to be conscious about the seemingly limitless present of distractions, temptations, and random ideas that so simply steal our consideration away from Jesus.  In truth, many individuals say that they really feel worse after they start to hope as a result of prayer is revealing to them how distracted they are surely.

The excellent news is, they aren’t getting worse, however merely experiencing at a deeper degree their very own want for a Savior.

I discussed above that prayer is studying to have a look at Jesus and permitting Him to look again at you.  What does this appear like virtually in a single’s life?  First, our gaze in prayer is primarily prolonged outward, away from ourselves, in the direction of God.  Christian prayer just isn’t a self-help train, a stress discount program, or a therapeutic instrument to assist us deal with our issues.  In fact, prayer can present perception about ourselves and assist to calm our emotional and psychological states, nonetheless, these are usually not ends to be sought in prayer.  In prayer, God is the tip, and so I have to lengthen my gaze past myself.

Second, since all of us battle with a bent in the direction of self-obsession, we’d like one thing to assist us have a look at Jesus, significantly if we’re new to prayer.  A scripture passage, a couple of a long time of the Rosary, or just sitting earlier than an icon or crucifix, and so forth. is usually a large help in serving to us to look extra deliberately on the Lord throughout official occasions of prayer.  As your prayer life and relationship with God matures, many individuals uncover much less of a necessity for one thing exterior to assist them gaze upon Jesus.  That, nonetheless, is a subject for an additional letter!

Lastly, Christian prayer is relational.  Although it’s true that God is all the time larger than our concepts, ideas, and pictures of him, additionally it is true that God just isn’t merely some vitality or pressure “on the market” within the universe.  Regardless of what we are able to or can’t learn about God, this a lot is true: God is a private presence.  Therefore, our relationship with him, significantly in prayer, is relational.  In prayer we’re speaking with a Individual, who listens to us, speaks to us, and most significantly, loves us.

On this first a part of prayer, studying to have a look at Jesus, you might be discovering who God is. Within the second half, permitting Jesus to have a look at you, you might be discovering who you might be.  Fairly actually, the primary a part of prayer is comparatively straightforward.  As soon as the presence of Jesus captures our consideration our distractions and ideas are inclined to dissipate for a time, permitting us to gaze upon him with marvel and intrigue.  Curiously, it’s the second a part of prayer that many individuals discover probably the most tough, and trigger some to desert prayer altogether.

What you’ll uncover, Brian, as you enable Jesus to gaze again at you in prayer is a presence that’s mild, attentive, and loving.  As great and enticing as this will likely sound, the purity of his gaze upon us is in contrast to something we expertise on this life. It’s each confronting, but disarming, intense but peaceable, demanding but affected person, all of which leaves us feeling each consoled and afraid.

After we enable Jesus to gaze upon us it will probably typically really feel like staring straight into the solar on a scorching summer season day; despite the fact that we benefit from the heat and brightness of the solar, our eyes want time to regulate to its presence.  My prayer for you is that you just enable your self time, not solely in your eyes, however your coronary heart, to regulate to the dazzling mild of His presence.

Sadly, all through most of our life, we’re merely seen “exteriorly.” Issues like social standing, fame, and our bodily look seize a major quantity of consideration from the world.  What’s ironic is that by remaining merely on the outside, the one who has turn out to be the article of fascination isn’t revealed.   Fortunately, Jesus works within the precise reverse means.  What he wishes is you, not the you that’s offered on social media or the you that your profession and social standing would possibly point out, however the you past all these non permanent elements of your life.  Therefore, with out prayer, one can solely reside on the floor of life.

Does all of this seem too good to be true?  Whereas it’s good and crucial to speak about prayer, crucial factor is that one truly begins to hope.  I hope that if something, this letter conjures up you Brian to hope by merely Jesus and permitting Him to have a look at you, as a result of it’s right here, greater than another place, the place you’ll uncover each who God is and who you might be.  In spite of everything, isn’t this what we’re all in search of?

Prayer is the important thing that unlocks the door to those nice mysteries.

Sincerely in Christ,

Fr. Jeremiah

This publish was first revealed on From the Friars and is reprinted right here with permission.

Photograph courtesy of the Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal  and @martin.jernberg.





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