This is the second part of a series on being more purposeful about deepening our relationship with God through prayer. The first part can be found here, and I recommend starting there.
I stood on one side of the door and my daughter hid on the other. I don’t yell or call names, but I sure can be mean. It’d been a long day, my mind had been filled with anxieties about work, and my daughter had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Half an hour later I stood outside her room and knocked. It was time to apologize.
No relationship can survive unreconciled hurt. Well, they can survive it, but they can’t thrive with it. Relationships can limp along functionally—each person focusing on meeting their expectations—when forgiveness hasn’t been asked for or received, but I’ve never seen a relationship deepening, growing, or bearing more fruit in that situation.
Relationships deepen through continued intimacy—sharing the heart with vulnerability—which only makes sense with people you trust. How can anyone be vulnerable with a person they don’t trust? How can anyone trust someone who has hurt them but refuses to try to heal the wound they caused?
The relationship may survive, but I don’t see how it can thrive.
Our relationship with God is no different. It’s tempting to keep our prayers on the surface. It’s easiest to talk to God like an acquaintance, someone with whom we talk about the weather or sports, but not our fears, hopes, or dreams. It’s easiest to recite our memorized prayers, ask for the needs of the moment, and go about our day.
Breaking into a deeper relationship with God requires allowing him to see what’s happening inside of us. The problem is that it’s going to reveal things we’re ashamed of, things we regret, and things we’re trying really hard to pretend aren’t there. If we really understand who God is, as discussed in the previous article on praise, then we’re going to find times we failed to act like God’s son or daughter.
The key to more deeply understanding and getting to know God is facing these failings, naming them, telling God about them, asking him to forgive them, and accepting that he has forgiven them.
Reconciling is laying the truth out in plain sight and balancing everything. Whether you’re reconciling a checkbook (not that anyone does that anymore) or a relationship the process is the same; lay out the facts, respond accordingly (ask forgiveness), and make sure things balance (accept forgiveness).
After this, you’re able to move forward in prayer intimately. You don’t have to hide the stuff you’re ashamed of; you already shined a spotlight on it and moved past it! Now, you can talk about the deep stuff of your heart, not just the surface “small-talk” we so often fill our prayer with.
Here are a few bits of advice for reconciling yourself in prayer:
- Every time you pray, after spending a few moments or minutes recalling who God is (praise), spend an equal amount of time reflecting on what’s keeping you away from God right now. What’s distracting you? What are you afraid of? Why is praying in a meaningful way, as opposed to staying on the surface, difficult? Talk through these things with Jesus.
- Schedule a daily time to walk through the last twenty-four hours. Reflect on what blessings you received and times you did things you wish you’d done differently. The Jesuits call this an Examine prayer, which can be as fancy or simple as you’d like.
- Pay attention to what you find. Get yourself to the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly (monthly is a great start) and bring along specific things you’ve done and also share the behaviors you now realize have become habits. Think of the Sacrament as a reset. Start fresh from here.
Reconciliation isn’t about beating ourselves up or trying to feel badly about who we are. It’s all about putting ourselves into a spot where we can pray in a way that changes us. After this, we’re ready to start sharing our needs with God, and what better place to start than with the needs of others? That’s where we’ll pick up next time.