In the book “The Parish as a School of Prayer,” Father Scott Traynor identifies four essential habits of growing in intimacy with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit — acknowledge, relate, receive and respond.
Acknowledge: “Notice, see, name, attend to, become aware of the thoughts, feelings, and desires that are moving in my heart.”
Many people may be unsure how to start developing a regular prayer life. What do we say? What do we expect in return? Much of our prayer is superficial; perhaps we don’t tell God anything too personal or specific. Maybe we have a level of mistrust in God and a lack of humility and vulnerability.
Superficial friendships that lack depth,when we don’t take time to nurture and develop them, wither and die. This happens for some of us in our relationship with the Holy Trinity. Lack of trust and humility leads to a lukewarm prayer life or, worse, no prayer life. The first step in growing in a relationship is to be specific, humble and vulnerable. These lead to trust.
Relate: “Gather what is on my heart and honestly talk to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit what is found on my heart.”
People may think, “God knows what’s bothering me, why do I need to tell Him?” Sure, God already knows what’s in our hearts and on our minds. But, by talking to God in detail, we become aware of our brokenness. Our self-awareness is the first step in recognizing that we were not designed by God to do it on our own. We need His love, mercy and forgiveness.
Talking with God in detail moves us from “self-centered” to “God-centered.” This helps us determine God’s will in our lives and to become “other-centered” in our prayer. We pray less for ourselves and pray more for other’s needs. It helps us to be more loving, merciful and forgiving to family, friends — and enemies.
Receive: “to generously receive and stay with the grace of God.”
When our prayer is not humble and lacks trust, and our hearts have a wall around them, we are unable to hear or see God’s response.
Father Traynor writes, “When we share our thoughts, feelings and desires with the Holy Trinity, it actually opens our hearts to receive everything that God desires for us.”
God wants a personal relationship with each of us. We were designed to share our brokenness with Him and then receive His grace. We must remain open to God’s love, mercy and forgiveness. God wants us to be happy. His grace opens us to the giftedness of our future, of all that is possible in our lives with Him.
Respond: “When we say ‘yes’ to God’s love that very grace will inspire, direct and sustain a concrete and particular response of love.”
When we accept the Holy Trinity’s invitation to a relationship, we begin to see the small miracles that occur daily in our lives. When we experience God’s love, mercy and forgiveness in a profound way, we want more of it. Our prayer life isn’t just something we do in the morning or before we go to bed — it becomes the center of our life throughout the day, in all circumstances, good and bad.
Usually, when people receive a gift, they want to share it with others. This is true with our relationship with the Holy Trinity. It is a gift waiting for each of us to accept and to share with others.
Teaching another person how to pray is the best gift we can give someone.