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‘Hi, God. Can I talk to you?’

An unnamed disciple in Luke’s gospel asked Jesus for help with something I think we also could use help with 2,000 years later.

“Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1)

Jesus answered with the perfect prayer: the Our Father. 

We all learned the Our Father as kids, along with the Hail Mary, the Glory Be, and others. Memorized prayers were our first experience of prayer, and we took comfort in knowing this is how we can talk to God. 

Those prayers – which some may call rote prayer – continue to bring us comfort and help us talk to God throughout our years on Earth. I can’t tell you how many times I have witnessed people who are elderly or ill find peace and a closeness to God by reciting these long-established prayers over and over again. Who wouldn’t want to pray the very words Jesus himself gave us?

At the same time, I also encourage all of us to sit quietly in God’s presence, talking to him as we would a loved one. Prayer is conversation. It’s talking to God and being open to God’s response.

When I talk with couples, I tell them we need to learn to share not just our thoughts but our feelings as well. That’s also true when talking with God. 

It’s okay to talk to God about what’s upsetting you. It’s okay to tell God you’re a little angry with him or frustrated with the world around us. It’s actually good to do that because you’re talking to God as you would somebody you care about and who cares about you. That’s how we grow in love, by expressing our feelings and knowing each other’s heart.

It’s true that God already knows our hearts, how we’re feeling, and what we’re thinking. But it helps us to actively share it with him. I also think God delights in hearing us say we love him, even when he already knows.

I think of the song from “Fiddler on the Roof” when Tevye repeatedly asks his wife, Golde, “Do you love me?” Twenty-five years after an arranged marriage, he yearns to know as their daughter has fallen in love and wishes to marry. They agree that they do love each other, and the song ends:

It doesn't change a thing,

But even so,

After twenty-five years

It's nice to know.


However many years we’ve lived, I’m sure it’s nice for God to hear us say that we love him, and I know it’s helpful for us to say it.

As we finish up Lent and prepare for the Easter season, let’s try to find time to quiet ourselves and simply be in the Lord’s presence, to share our thoughts and feelings, and to be more attentive to his voice in our hearts. 

I almost hate to admit this, but I was best at doing this more than 50 years ago in the seminary. We had a structured prayer life that included our breviary and Daily Mass, but I did something extra that I loved most of all: I went to the Mount St. Mary’s chapel about 35 minutes before Mass every day and just sat in the Lord’s presence. 

Simply being with God gave me peace and a sense of closeness with God – and God’s closeness to me. I think that was the richest prayer time of my life, and while I’ve continued that to varying degrees, life in the priesthood can get so busy that those quiet times become harder and harder to find.

Some of my brother priests are much better at this than I am, and they inspire me to spend more quiet time before the Lord. It is one of my main goals in retirement, to take advantage of that wonderful opportunity be at peace with God. 

I think of Elijah following God’s instructions to stand on Mt. Carmel and wait for the Lord to pass by. (1 Kings: 11-13) The Lord wasn’t in the “strong and violent wind” or the earthquake and fire that followed. The Lord was in a “light silent sound,” which in the King James translation reads “a still small voice.” Elijah recognized it immediately.

Let’s continue saying those beautiful prayers that we know so well, and as often as we can. Let’s also take time to rest in the Lord, to share our joys and sorrows, and to let God’s voice break through the busyness of our lives. It often takes silence in our hearts to hear God’s still small voice.

May we all hear God’s gentle whisper in our hearts this Lent and Easter, and may we talk with him as someone who loves us more than we can imagine. That’s why he sent his son to die for us, conquer sin and death, and open the gates of heaven for us to live in his love forever.

(Msgr. John Enzler serves as the mission advocate of Catholic Charities of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and is a chaplain at his alma mater, St. John’s College High School in Washington. He writes the Faith in Action column for the archdiocese’s Catholic Standard and Spanish-language El Pregonero newspapers and websites.)