I was so blessed to be able to have a day retreat to be with God and a group of wonderful women from our Catholic Homeschool Co-op at the Pro Sanctity Retreat Center in our community. I am always looking for ways to reconnect with God and deepen my spiritual life, so I was thrilled to hear that our Homeschool Co-Op puts on a yearly women’s day retreat. I was feeling even more of a pull to take this day away with God after we experienced the loss of our son Samuel by miscarriage. I knew that I needed time to be quiet in prayer and process through my grief on the path to healing. I gained so much wisdom at the retreat and am feeling refreshed and ready to re-examine my prayer life and be more available to receive God on a daily basis. I wanted to share with you some of what I learned in hope that it might help you in your prayer life as well.
Just as children learn from us as parents how to speak and how to act, we learn how to mirror God’s image by going to Him in prayer and being open to hearing His words and how He wants us to respond. It is essential that we take time daily to pray, and that means not only say the rosary or read the daily scripture but to have “imaginative prayer” with God. With this type of prayer we are truly entering a relationship with God and talking to him about our sorrows, joys and sufferings throughout each day. Even though he knows all of our actions and thoughts he still wants to hear from us about our thoughts, feelings and desires.
We learned about praying with the acronym A. R. R. R. which stands for Acknowledge, Relate, Receive, Respond.
Acknowledge: We need to be aware of what is going on inside of our heart and then learn how to relate these feelings to God. We can think “This is how I am feeling, but I am not sure why”. We then dive deeper to give that emotion a name and accept that God cares about us and our life and wants to hear about it.
Relate: In this step we are telling Jesus everything; what we feel, think and what we want. There is a big difference between thinking thoughts internally throughout the day and taking them to God to relate with Him. We need to personally let him into our lives to know and understand our deepest feelings. If we are in a difficult place and do not know how to communicate our true feelings we can use the Psalms as a guide, which speak through many different emotions of joy and suffering.
Receive: In this part of our prayer we need to sit back, and be patient. This part of prayer is God’s work and God’s gift to us. We make ourselves available to be receptive to truly receiving God. We need to trust that God is listening to us and wanting to fill our lives with His love and truth. The priest leading our retreat gave us the beautiful example that just as women can physically make room for another person to grow inside of our own being, we also need to be open and aware of making room for God in our being and truly ready to receive Him.
Respond: Here we respond to what we are receiving. We can respond in thanksgiving, in tears or in laughter. It can be a response of a deeper conversation or a response of a practical resolution or change in our life.
Our retreat was held on the feast day of St Francis de Sales and so we were also able to learn more about his life and pray to him during our morning prayers and Mass. My favorite quote from St Francis de Sales is the following:
“Accept the duties which come upon you quietly, and try to fulfill them methodically, one after another. If you attempt to do everything at once, or with confusion, you will only cumber yourself with your own exertions, and by dint of perplexing your mind you will probably be overwhelmed and accomplish nothing.”
I think that this quote helps us greatly as Catholic mothers to realize that we need to pray about our vocations and accept and receive what God is giving to us in the gift of our families and respond with grace and love. God is the ultimate redeemer and when we act like we have it all together we are not able to truly let Him in. It is in those messiest places in our lives and heart where Jesus’s response can be the most glorious! Sometimes we do not feel like we are receiving a response to our prayer, but God only asks us to wait when he has something amazing planned in our lives.
God is there and present in each day and in each part of our lives. Now it is up to us to give Him the space he needs and to truly receive the gift that God is. God wants to provide and protect that space in our lives to draw closer to Him. The amazing thing is if we try today and do not get that intimate prayer time to fit in our day, God is just as available to us tomorrow as he was today. All we need to do is try again. There are many responsibilities that can overwhelm us in our daily lives between loving our spouses, caring for our children, tending to our homes, making meals, giving to our community but the only thing that we really need to accomplish in each day is receiving God. He is there, all around us, and through daily prayer if we take time to acknowledge, relate, receive and respond to Him I think we would all see remarkable gifts in each of our lives.
What do you do to fit time in your day for prayer and to deepen your relationship with God? How do you best receive God? Let us pray for each other as we also draw closer to Him.
Copyright 2015 Nicole Ernest
Image copyright Nicole Ernest