Woody Allen once said something to the effect that eighty percent of success in life is simply about showing up. We can say something similar about prayer. If we desire a fruitful prayer life, then we must show up for it everyday.
What do I mean? In my previous posts I wrote about the Examen Prayer, a time set aside to reflect on God’s love and our response to it in our daily lives. But how does one begin to pray the Examen? How does one begin to pray at all? The first step to prayer is simply showing up and acknowledging God’s loving presence. St. Ignatius called this first step the time of “transition.” Once again, I direct you to Fr. Gallagher’s excellent book that I referenced in my last post.
For most of us, this “transition” means taking a step away from the busyness of our day and consciously entering into God’s presence. You see, the Lord does not need a time of transition; He is always present to us; His loving gaze is always upon us. The transition is for us; we need to become consciously aware of His loving presence in our lives, especially if we’ve lost sight of Him during the day. The Lord is always waiting to welcome us into His loving embrace. So we need to make a conscious decision during the day to set time aside to enter into His presence.
What is the purpose of this transition? Very simply, it is a time to become deeply aware of God’s love and presence. His love should always be the focus of our prayer. As we consciously show up for prayer, we acknowledge that He is always with us, that He loves us, that His arms and His heart are open to us and He is simply waiting to embrace us in His love.
Practically speaking, how do we make this transition? First, we need a quiet space: a room, a church, nature, wherever we can be quiet with the Lord. Personally, I like to sit in the chapel before the Blessed Sacrament or sit in my armchair with a hot cup of coffee freshly brewed from my Keurig coffee maker. We then need to silence ourselves. I try to focus on my breathing for a few moments and then simply acknowledge the Lord’s presence. I try to become aware of His love, sometimes by saying, “I know that You are here with me, that You love me, that Your arms and Your heart are open to me ready to welcome me.” Then for a few moments we simply bask in His loving presence.
That’s it. That’s what it means to show up for prayer, to transition into prayer. Once we consciously show up, then we can let the Lord do the rest. The way we choose to transition and the length of time we spend on it will differ for each of us; but the important thing is that if we want to have a fruitful time of prayer then we must first consciously place ourselves in the Lord’s presence.
So, from now on when you go to pray, take some time to transition and become aware of the Lord’s loving presence. That’s the best way to begin your prayer.