Have you been overthinking lately? Or perhaps, just over thinking! One of the by-products of the current COVID-19 pandemic has been the rise of introspection. Whether it emerges in one’s own consciousness while lounging in that comfortable and familiar chesterfield recliner on a lazy Sunday afternoon, or as the fodder in the increasing array of podcasts, audiobooks, and social media influencers, this inward turn may have also led many of us to the disquiet place of prayer.
Prayer is a deeply intimate leap into the unknown. Despite the toughest and loudest critics that espouse, “There is only ONE way to pray!”, prayer is not an assessable task. These detractors often gain traction because they can feed our own internal voices of inadequacy and insecurity around praying. However, these voices have lost sight of the core and inviting purpose of prayer. Prayer is not the placation of a remote divine entity and the deliverance of first-hand news. Prayer is the enlargement of your heart.
In the quiet nook of an isolated room, you may have found yourself speaking to God, in a new or long-forgotten way. In that space of contemplation, those unresolved or emotive questions that undoubtedly emerge may have sparked your own personal contagion of expectant solutions and resolutions. There is a natural tendency to desire answers from praying: the healing of a sick friend, lucidity in times of confusion, or the reduction in one’s own pain and suffering. Lost in the endless search for existential explanations is the God-given gift of prayer: transformation. Put simply, précised by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard,
“The function of prayer is not to influence God,
but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
There is a wise, older Marist Brother that I once lived in a community with who, every morning, resided in the small chapel attached to our house and always looked immersed, peaceful and focussed in prayer. One day, I asked him, “What is your secret for always praying so deeply?” He replied:
“There is no secret, James. There are three things that happen for me
in prayer with God. Sometimes we talk. Sometimes we sit together quietly.
And sometimes, I just sleep.”
May you find all three!
Bio: Br James Hodge is the Project Development Coordinator in the Identity and Mission Directorate, and a Marist Brother. While in lockdown, he can think of no better way to spend a secluded afternoon than eating chocolate, binge-watching media from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and dreaming of that sweet day of hitting the open road to see the world again with reunited family and friends.