I wish I could afford a Christmas gift for you. Something sparkly, perhaps. Definitely something you need but maybe the kind of thing you wouldn’t get for yourself. Something truly unique and special – the kind of thing that makes you feel good, better than you did before receiving the gift.
In that way, I’d kind of like to imitate God.
What a gift God gave! He put flesh on His Son and sent Him to dwell among us. What is more sparkly than a baby – especially a baby that grows up to be the most incredible man who ever walked the earth? God knew we needed a Savior and that we couldn’t obtain salvation for ourselves.
Don’t let Christmas pass without accepting that gift. Let Jesus arrive in your heart – again, if He already has resided there, or for the first time if you are ready to recognize his love for you. Nothing could be a more special and unique gift.
I can’t find any kind of gift to match that, certainly not on the shelves of any store in this world. But …
What if I go shopping in my heart, in your heart? What if I find something in heaven that you really need? Well, my fellow human being, I have done just that. In fact, I have two gifts for you:
- I will pray for you.
- I will ask God to help deepen your prayer life – or if you don’t have much of a prayer life, that He will bless you with one.
The greatest gift of my life is my relationship with God. Such as it is. We could be closer. I could pay more attention to Him, obey Him more diligently, allow myself to be loved by Him more easily than I do. But we have a relationship in which we do talk with each other , in various ways, in prayer. I start talking with Him – especially thanking Him – from the moment I open my eyes in bed each morning, continue throughout the day with Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, hourly requests for people who have asked me to pray for them, as I fall asleep at night and at countless other moments.
I have been blessed with people in my life that like to pray as well, especially several groups of people. That can be my parish family at St. Cletus Catholic Church, my friends with whom I occasionally meet on Saturday mornings, an Emotions Anonymous group, a team of men who will be putting on a February retreat, a group of men I met on an October retreat that has begun meeting to discuss our faith, a group of Secular Carmelites to which I belong … I have prayed with all of them.
Why do I pray so much? Mainly, to satisfy a hunger in my soul. God put it there a long time ago. It’s a force I can’t resist – a force defined by the facts that I love God, that I want to be with Him here in this life and forever in the next, and that frankly I don’t have the strength to make it through the days without Him.
“Prayer is … a longing of the soul,” Mahatma Gandhi said. “It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”
I don’t always use words. I love to simply ask God to draw me into His presence, to put a great desire for Him in my soul and then … just sit in His lap.
But I use words a lot. I bring the needs of people in my life or even people I’ve never met to Him, lay them at His feet and ask His blessing upon those people. I ask Him to embrace them, to prove His love for them, to meet them in their needs.
I promise I will do that for you if you ask.
And I will pray the Lord blesses you with a longing to spend time with Him. It could be by visiting Him more often in church and in the process gaining new family members with whom to pray. It could be through reading Scripture more often, thanking Him for another day of life each morning, thanking Him for the blessings of the day each night, noticing His beauty in creation around you.
It could be through asking His forgiveness when you have hurt Him in some way. It could be in telling others that you will pray for them – and then intentionally making time to do just that.
God wants to hear from you. It’s not because He wants to get to know you better; He knows you better than anyone. It’s not because He has all this great magic to perform but needs you to remind Him to wave his wand. It’s not because it will make Him love you more; He loves you more than anyone can imagine.
He wants to hear from you because He wants you to know Him and love Him.
“The function of prayer is not to influence God,” said Soren Kierkegaard, “but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
Those are my Christmas gifts to you: to pray for your needs and through my prayer to ask God to change you, to draw you into Him. To love Him more deeply.