The very first time I saw the movie, “Fiddler on the Roof,” as a teen. I was very much impressed at how Tevye, the Russian Jewish peasant prayed to God in a very personal and familiar way while he worked in the barn or in the field. Growing up in a praying family and believing God to be good and loving, my experience of prayer had been mostly communal and when I prayed on my own, they were formal prayers, and an occasional, “Lord, help me do well on my test.”
I thought that Tevye talked to God that way because he is one of the Chosen People, and they must know Him in a genuinely personal way. I believed that God knew me because He made me, but that was the extent of it. God knows the number of hairs on our head but intimacy in prayer constitutes entrusting our hearts to Him.
As intimacy is a relational thing, intimacy in prayer stands on the love relationship between the Person of God and us – there is that exchange of gifts: us – entrusting our hearts to God and God responding to us in love. The beautiful thing about intimacy with God is that God also reveals and entrusts His heart to us and we can respond to Him in love. We desire intimacy with God because our hearts long to know God and yearn to be known; and God’s heart desires to know us and longs to make Himself known to us.
Intimacy with God
Prayer is this love relationship with God where because we are His children, He sent the Spirit of His Son, Jesus into our hearts crying out, “Abba, Father!” (Galatians 4:6). Relational Prayer bridges our hearts to the Father’s heart. The following dynamics can be incorporated with any method of prayer like praying the Mass, Lectio Divina, the Rosary, Scripture reading, contemplative prayer.
- Acknowledge – Notice, name and admit our thoughts, feelings and desires – be aware of what is going on inside our minds and our hearts.
- Relate – Choose to entrust what is in our hearts to the Lord by telling Him about it honestly, being just as we are, letting Him into our subjective world.
- Receive – Be receptive to God’s response that may come as an insight, an image, an awareness of His presence, a peace, or even a correction. God may speak to us through the Scriptures, events and people in our lives – we need to be listening and attentive to the movements of the Holy Spirit.
- Respond – When we receive from God, we respond accordingly. If we are called to act, let us act. When we are invited to trust Him, let us put our trust in His goodness and power. When we receive understanding and insight, let those guide us. When we are being corrected, let us repent and follow His way.
Teaching our Children Intimacy with God
Modeling intimacy with God in prayer is the best way to teach our children. If the habits and dynamics of intimate communication are part of the home culture, intimate prayer with God will feel normal and natural as part of loving relationships.
- Foster intimacy in family relationships so our loved ones learn how to entrust and express what is going on in their interior selves and also learn how to respond to others sharing,
- Personal Prayer Life – Help family members to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus. Help young children develop habits of prayer like prayer before meals, a Morning Offering and a nightly Examination of Conscience and Act of Contrition and spontaneous prayer – no matter how simple.
- Pray with them – When our children come to us and share their thoughts, feelings and desires, we can respond by turning to God together, “Let us pray about this,” and together with our child, pray to God out loud expressing to God what the child has shared and together, entrust it to God.
- Encourage Relational Prayer – As our children get older and when they share their innermost thoughts, feelings and desires, we can encourage them to also share them with God, “When you pray today, tell God what is in your heart and be listening. I will be praying for you also about this.”
Because I have many thoughts, feelings and desires, turning to God in prayer comes more naturally now – praying while washing dishes or shopping or brushing my teeth. We too are chosen. Jesus tells His disciples, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.” (John 15:16)