A few years ago, a dear friend gave me this coffee mug, “All I need is a little bit of coffee, and a whole lot of Jesus.” And that just about sums up my prayer life!
I was born into a faithful family, baptized and confirmed here at Church, so I was blessed with a good foundation. But my personal prayer life started as a young mom when a friend invited me to my very first Bible study. Each Tuesday morning, with babies and toddlers in tow, we’d head off to discuss our study. It was an exciting time, filled with discoveries! I purchased my very first personal Study Bible, and I began to highlight verses, write notes in the margins and favorite verses in the inside cover of my Bible. Scripture came alive and I began to connect Scripture with my crazy, busy, messy life.
I began to believe Jesus was alive and somehow involved in this daily walk called life. Jesus was no longer simply an historical figure; nor did He die, rise, and ascend and now is just somewhere up there; neither was He simply a sentimental figure whose name we put on mugs and jewelry. He is with us at school, at work, in our marriages, as we are raising our children, in our sicknesses, our aging, our dying’s and risings—everything!
Believing Jesus is alive and with me, I desired to know Jesus more deeply—thus began my commitment to daily Morning Prayer; with six children, I was just too tired in the evening and too busy during the day, so morning it had to be. Getting up early for prayer certainly hasn’t been perfect between sick children, crying babies, teenagers, and menopause. There were many, many mornings, I slept through the alarm and flew out of the house on a Hail Mary. But I’m so, so, thankful to the Holy Spirit, that through it all, I’ve stuck with it. Now, when I go to bed I’m eager to get up for prayer.
So, what does my prayer life look like after all these years? Each day begins the same, yet it is always new! I wake up early, pour my coffee, and sit for five or ten minutes just to wake up and bring myself into the presence of God. I begin by praising God; the Church prayer always begins with praise, a psalm or song of praise. I once read Christians should praise God by praying a doxology in the morning. Since then, I sing, often while gazing out the window on a new day, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” Praise is critical for we were created to praise, and we are most truly our selves when praising God. Praising lifts our hearts to God and takes the focus off self. Once I praise God, I’m less likely to wallow in sadness, worry, or negative thinking. Praising God naturally leads to thanking God for the sheer gift and beauty of another day: another chance to live well, to serve others, to love better.
Next, I pray by reading the Scripture readings of the day, especially the Gospel. I read the Gospel over once, and then pray with the Gospel a second time, trying to place myself into the Gospel, relating it to my life, and how God is calling me to respond. I then spend time listening to God in the silence. And, my morning prayer is not complete without interceding for loved ones, and for those I know who are suffering or struggling. Finally, I petition for the Spirit’s guidance, going before me in my meetings and encounters of the day—helping me to be a presence of God’s love throughout the day.
There have been memorable times of early morning prayer like the time I woke up at 3:00 a.m., thinking, “That baby should have been born by now.” I got out of bed and called our son Erik. He answered and in a panicked voice, said, “Mom, they are taking Maria into the emergency room. Please pray.” And, pray, I did. Thankfully, the baby was delivered safely and both were well. Or the time, I prayed well into the early morning by the bedside of my mother, who had just experienced a massive stroke.
But mostly, it’s been the sheer habit, even when I’m tired—or prayer seems dull or God seems distant—that has deepened my faith. Like any relationship, it grows through showing up, day in, day out, especially when it’s a struggle. Through this daily commitment, a relationship has developed—a friendship with Jesus. Through this friendship, I have learned to trust Him with my life and the lives of my loved ones.
In the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus presented himself alive to the disciples—His friends. Jesus is alive, now, here, and we are commanded to witness to Him to the ends of the earth. In today’s Gospel, which is from the very last chapter of Matthew, we are given the great commission—given to each baptized Christian—to go and make disciples in every nation.
For us to fulfill our baptismal promises and for us to serve as an evangelizing community, we must know Jesus: His words, His commands, His wisdom, His heart—His LOVE. To Know Jesus is to know the Father, and to be given the power of the Spirit to witness to our faith.
So, why are we sitting here looking up at the sky? Jesus presents Himself alive to us here, as He dwells within each of us; He is present in holy Scripture, which reveals and enlightens; He certainly is fully present in the Eucharist, where we are nourished, strengthened, and sent to take Christ’s living, redeeming, and healing presence into a hurting world.
Prayer can change everything, especially the human heart. So how has it changed me over the years? Hopefully, prayerfully, I’m a little less selfish and self-centered, and a little more patient, kinder, braver, a little more merciful and a little more at peace—though I have a long, long way to go until I am conformed to Him. Mostly, I can witness that Jesus is alive, and each morning when I rise, I NEED, and I mean NEED, a whole lot of coffee and a whole, whole, lot of Jesus. To God be the glory. Amen.
The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.