I am finally getting what prayer is. On a recent weekend retreat to the beautiful Gonzaga Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, Massachusetts, I spent a lot of time in adoration in the lovely chapels.
One evening as I sat with the Lord, I tried to quiet the turmoil within me. God does not need a lot of words, I told myself. He already knows what’s in your heart and what your needs are. I remembered the advice of a wonderful retreat leader from several years back. He said just tell God you love him and thank him. So instead of reciting learned prayers and a list of petitions, I said, “I love you,” and then added “thank you.” I concluded with “I’m sorry.” I sat quietly for a while and then imagined God’s response to my prayer. “I love you, too”, and “you’re welcome,” he replied. And he ended with words that soothed my soul: “you’re forgiven.”
I knew I must have been on to something because I felt immediate peace. Not the “flooding of peace” that you sometimes hear about when people say they have had an encounter with God, but a restful peace. It was release and relief, a let go of some of the hurt within me. Tears came—a lot of tears. I remember the wetness as they flowed down my cheeks and onto my neck. I did not feel the need to wipe them away, nor did I feel any embarrassment that others in the chapel would notice. Something special had happened and the tears were a testimony.
A little while later I went into Mary’s Chapel in the next room. I pulled out my journal and wrote down my prayer. Could it be that simple I wondered? Yes. Yes, it was that simple. I did not always have to go into a lot of detail when I spoke with God. Sometimes you may want or need to be specific but other times you are tired and your lists are too long and you worry about forgetting things.