Father Walter Burghardt, SJ, tells the story of an old farmer who would stop at a chapel on his way home from the fields. Knowing that the man just sat in the chapel apparently doing nothing, a neighbor asked him, “What goes on when you sit there?” The old man smiled and said, “I look at the Good God, and the Good God looks at me.” Prayer can be that simple—and that wonderful.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours.” All human beings hunger and thirst for God. The thirst for God is often described as a longing in our hearts that can’t quite be satisfied. In every man, woman, and child, that longing is ultimately a desire to be close to God. The great news is that God longs for such closeness with us as well. Prayer is the place where we acknowledge and express that thirst, where we are met, heard, and responded to. It is our opportunity to listen to God.
Prayer is an activity of the heart. It is not empty ritual or prescribed words. Prayer is our turning toward God with as much of our true self as we can muster. Prayer is best when it springs from our deepest emotions of joy, wonder, sorrow, gratitude, yearning, loss, and need. Perhaps the most sincere prayers we will ever voice are short and clear—“Please, God.” or “Thank you, God!” or “Help me, God!”
There are many styles of prayer, but if you want to nurture a life of prayer, a wonderful practice is to sit quietly and be aware that you’re in the presence of God. This practice can seem terrifying and uncomfortable at first, but it can soon become a highly prized and valuable part of your day. No matter what else is happening in your life, you will always be able to calm yourself, sit in God’s presence, and know that “the Good God” looks at you too.