“Watch and pray...”. Jesus said these words to his disciples in the Garden of Olives the night before his Passion. Jesus continues to address these words to us today, particularly during the season of Lent. There can be no fullness of Christian life without prayer. It is the breath of the soul without which our faith will suffocate and die. It is the door through which we allow Jesus to enter our lives. Saint Teresa of Avila wrote that prayer “is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us”. It is to keep our eyes of faith fixed on Jesus. A farm worker once said to the Curé of Ars that “I look at him and he looks at me”. Prayer is not something we work at alone. It is, above all, a gift from above. It comes from the Holy Spirit that we receive at Baptism. However, we need to learn how to pray.
Unfortunately, a large part of humanity today seems to have lost the sense and taste for prayer. Frenetic activity dominates people’s lives and they are constantly bombarded by the mass media. Men and women of our time never have enough time, and they are inclined to think that prayer is an escape from reality and even a total waste of time. Many of our contemporaries cannot abide silence because they are afraid of it. However, if we take away the dimension of silence from our lives, then we lose the ability to really listen to the word that breaks the silence. This is not all. To kneel before God is no longer regarded as appropriate by a humanity that is swollen with pride because of the advances it has made in technology and science. This humanity, however, is prepared to set itself on a pedestal and adore itself.
So, does prayer still have any meaning? Our response is “yes”! To be able to engage in conversation with the infinite God who loved us even to the Foolishness of the Cross, to be able to worship God, is the only privilege that confers on human beings greatness and dignity. It is only when human beings can prostrate themselves before their Creator that they can understand the truth about God and about themselves, God’s creatures.
Let us therefore worship the true God, the God who was made manifest in Jesus Christ. Far from being a flight from reality, prayer is right there in the heart of the life of the world. It shows us how to read the events of our existence. During this season, let us find again a taste for silence, a taste for a personal conversation with God – a taste for prayer.