Growing up as Catholic, I have always known that prayer is important. Scripture too. But though I have had experiences of spontaneous and personal prayer sessions with God, these were scattered through my life. On a day to day basis, for most of my life, prayer to me was purely a discipline. I did so because it was the right thing to do.
Reading scripture was an even greater challenge for me than prayer. Since the time I was a child, I had become very familiar with the stories of the Bible – both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. That is because I love stories. But I rarely found my time with scripture joyful or truly edifying, as more often than not, I found things I did not understand, and which sometimes I cannot find a satisfactory answer to. Lack of full understanding of scripture never affected my faith – but God had made me someone whose full joy and conviction is only unleashed when I can understand with my mind and heart. Thus, scripture has always been another discipline in which I did not feel deeply connected with.
I don’t know why it took me so long to do so, but some time last year, I began to pray earnestly for a deep desire and love for prayer and scripture. I have never lacked thirst for God – I desired to be closer to Him and to understand Him more. I had come to believe and understand that prayer is the breath of spiritual life. Without a deep and consistent prayer life, my spiritual life cannot be alive and thriving. Yet, even knowing so, I knew I was not eagerly seeking to spend time with God in prayer. I was always watching the clock!
So I began to petition God – “Lord, you know I love you. So please, please, give me the grace to fall in love with prayer! I want to desire prayer. I want to love prayer!”
2 months ago, I began to also pray for the gift of understanding scripture. During mass one day, I prayed, “Lord, you know the Bible as a whole has always felt obscure and distant to me. What I learn and know, I only understand intellectually. I don’t feel anything in my heart. I am not in love with scripture. Please give me the grace to understand your message in your Word in the Bible!”
God has been steadily answering my prayers! Among the ways He did was to show me Fr. W Goh who is a man of deep prayer life (he wakes up at 4:30a.m. every day to pray for 3 hours before starting his day of service to God’s people). The passion and joy with which Fr. Goh talks about prayer and scripture (“Don’t just read scripture. PRAY scripture!”) fills me with wonder. Fr. Goh says that just one Bible verse can keep him blissfully contemplating and praying for 30mins to an hour, and that reading too much at one go gives him indigestion! He wants to savour every word and phrase and let God’s word seep through his being.
Through no effort of my own, I have begun to find more and more delight in prayer. And scripture is coming alive for me. This past week, I spent 3 days contemplating the same scripture passage (John 14:21). I have never done that before! But how beautiful to turn God’s words slowly over in my mind in His company! Now I fully trust Him to teach and explain to me what His words mean – if it does not come immediately, I know it will come in His time.
I praise God that He has taught me how to pray… that now I not only *understand* intellectually what it means to pray unceasingly, but that He has shown me how to do it. My entire life is a prayer now, different forms of prayer. And the beauty of volunteering full-time in church is that I get to start every day by spending time in the Adoration Room with the Lord in prayer and scripture, and I get to attend daily mass in the evening to end off my day. During lunch hour, I get to join the priests and full-time staff for noon prayers in the chapel. God has given me mighty aid in making prayer a way of life.
How wonderful that our God answers our prayers so faithfully!
Dearest Lord, I know there are many brothers and sisters who, like me, struggle with prayer and the reading of scripture. You know we love You, Lord! But so often, because we want to do what is right by You, we get caught up in the ‘oughts’ and ‘ought nots’ and fail to find joy in what we do. It is so sad when prayer and scripture become mere acts of piety with no love!
So please send us the Holy Spirit to teach us to pray and experience scripture with passion and enjoyment! Help us to fall desperately in love with communing with You, and to be alert and sensitive to Your prompting in our life. Amen!