Prayer is like a Swimming Pool

February 1, 2004

Each day here at seminary, we celebrate morning prayer, Mass, and evening prayer together as a community. When I first arrived here two and a half years ago, I naively thought, “That’s all the prayer I would ever need in one day!” Our spiritual directors quickly taught us how crucial it is to spend quality time with the Lord every day in personal prayer, too. In this reflection, I have gathered together the tips that have been most helpful to me in building a prayer life. Maybe they will help some of you as much as they helped me!

* “Prayer is like swimming.” No one is born knowing how to swim. It is a skill that can only be learned. One can’t learn to swim just from watching someone else do it, or from hearing a lecture about it. The same applies to prayer. To learn how to pray, there is no other way than to set aside time at the ‘pool’, take a deep breath, and just jump in every day!

* “What should the ‘pool’ be like?” Since the goal is to spend time intimately with the Savior—just you and the Infinite God of the universe—you need to choose a ‘pool’ that is quiet and free of distractions. You also need to pick a good time of the day when you will be most able to give 100% to the Lord. Proper posture is also important—sitting up straight or kneeling is best. (No lying down, hanging from monkey bars, etc!)

* “OK, I’m in the pool, but now what?” Imagine Jesus walking into the room RIGHT NOW, as you are sitting there reading these words. There he is—in the flesh, just as the apostles knew him two thousand years ago. Beaming you the most beautiful smile you have ever seen, he takes a seat right beside you. What would you say to him? What would you ask him? What would you want him to tell you?

Prayer is that simple! Jesus wants to be your best friend, and he wants to ‘hang out’ with you every day through prayer. So talk to him just like you would talk to a close friend! Tell him how your day is going. Thank him for the gifts he’s been showering on you throughout the day and week. Ask him to shower down graces on your loved ones. And then the most important part—let him speak to you! Open up your Bible and read a small passage, especially from the Gospels, and then sit quietly with the Lord, allowing him to open up that Word and speak to you in your heart.

* “How long should I pray?” Saint Francis de Sales, one of the greatest spiritual directors who ever lived, once gave the following advice: “Everyone needs thirty minutes of personal prayer time each day, unless they are too busy to pray—in which case, they need an hour!” Everyone needs at least thirty minutes set aside every day for personal prayer with the Lord, as a bare minimum. (Thirty minutes of prayer might seem like a lot at first, but don’t worry! After a while, that half hour will seem to fly by, and you’ll wonder how you ever made it through the day with anything less!)

* “We spend time with those we love.” Remember that the way we spend our time each day reflects what we hold to be truly important in life. Isn’t it funny how we often say, “I don’t have time to pray,” but every day we make time for three meals, to read the paper, to check our email, and to watch TV? We all make time for what we really hold dear in our lives. If Everyone Loves God, they will make time for Him, even if it means missing Everybody Loves Raymond!

Dear Lord, you put us here on this earth to fall in love with you and to become saints. Through prayer, you allow us to taste the joy of your love and friendship. Help us to put you first in our lives! Form us into men and women of prayer! Amen.