Many people are under the false impression that prayer is something we have to do all by ourselves. In this way of thinking, we imagine that God sits somewhere in distant majesty waiting for us to make the first move. We sometimes expend enormous efforts at prayer thinking that we will finally get God’s attention. While perseverance in prayer is not a bad thing in itself, our prayer may sometimes feel more like an effort to earn God’s attention and approval than a communication with someone who is interested in us.
A more accurate way to look at prayer recognizes that God has already made the first move and we need only to respond. God is already present and is mindful of us. God is already in and around us, surrounding and permeating our life, the lives of others, creation, and indeed every moment. Like the Father in the parable of the Lost (Prodigal) Son or the shepherd who leaves behind 99 sheep to search for the lost one, God is eagerly looking for us. God’s presence surrounds us in love—even when we are full of fear and confusion, or lost in sin. The constant presence of God is always and intimately with us, inviting us to respond.
Imagine how different our lives could be if we recognized God in all moments and in all things. Imagine how we would see ourselves and relate to others. We would begin to live even more for God and for others. Part of being a Christian is developing that awareness and responding to it through prayer.
Prayer, then, is a response to the invitation of God’s presence already with us. What are some ways we can recognize and respond to the presence of God, especially in prayer?
First, we need to recognize how God always makes the first move. God is the one who invites us into relationship. (I have called you by name: you are mine. Isaiah 43:1)
Next, think of different ways you experience the presence of God
in relationships with family, friends, coworkers, strangers, and others
in kindness and generosity, both given and received
in Scripture, worship, work, your imagination
in your interior and spiritual promptings and longings
in a simple awareness of what God might be calling you to right now
in times you are challenged to make a difficult decision
Whatever the form of your prayer is, you can begin it by quietly putting yourself in God’s presence. Even amid distractions and noise, God is present. Practice awareness of that presence. Rest in it. Be assured of it. Count on it.