I don’t know how prayer works but I know it works. By that I mean, prayer changes things. Does it change God’s mind? I doubt it. But it changes our hearts. It changes the understanding of the meaning and purpose of our lives.
It somehow (and I really don’t know how this happens) aligns our heart and mind with God’s plan… now that is a phrase that deserves more contemplation… I don’t mean to imply some prescribed preordained blueprint. I don’t envision God with a book about each of us, stored in heaven’s library with God the only cardholder. That implies we have no efficacy about the trajectory or purpose of our own life. So, I have always preferred the phrase God’s design of our life. That describes something more complex and beautiful that resonates with the value of the choices we make in the little span of time we each get to live on this earth. Putting our trust in God’s design requires we live with humility. God is God and we are not.
So, prayer is opening our mind and heart to change our soul to accept the gift of peace that comes when we trust God is caring for us, guiding and moving in and through us and our relationships, to order our life with what is best for us.
Recently, I have been in several important circumstances that have reminded me why prayer is so important, why it is the foundation of relationships. “I am praying for you” is not a phrase we should underestimate. When we say that, it is a pledge to unite whoever we are, with whatever we have, to will good for them and whatever is God’s design for them. So, sometimes it looks like what we pray for doesn’t happen. It is in these moments that we learn to lean into our trust of God’s love for us, even though that love may not, at that time, be apparent.
St. Therese of Lisieux said, “For me prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”
I think it is helpful to remember to glance to heaven often. I also believe prayer is a turning toward each other, uniting us together in that “surge of the heart”. It is the act of surrender that brings the peace that only God can give even in the most difficult of times. Lent is a good time to trust that prayer is the practice that changes everything for us and the gift we can give each other.