I was out on my run one hot summer morning in Arizona.
A mile in, I realized I’d forgotten my water bottle. “No problem,” I thought to myself. “I’ve done this run a hundred times. I’ll be fine.” Sadly, my pride-ridden brain forgot to inform my dehydrated body. By the time I turned the corner for mile number three, my legs began to lock up. I became dizzy and nauseated, and at one point, I’m certain the grim reaper was running beside me. Even my guardian angel was asking for a drink!
I made the mistake of thinking I could survive on my own—I didn’t need anything or anyone else. I was wrong. The proverb was correct: “Pride does (indeed) go before folly” (cf. Proverbs 16:18). And I’ve made similar mistakes in my Christian journey. The key to avoiding dehydration—physical or spiritual—is to have and drink water before you actually thirst.
Are You Thriving or Just Surviving?
We know our bodies were created with needs. But so were our souls. Creation is designed to need not just creation but the Creator. The One who breathes life into us loves us enough to design us with spiritual needs as well. We have not only a desire for the lifeblood of earth (food and water) but also for the lifeblood of heaven in prayer and sacrament. The question is this: do we want to merely survive or truly live?
In the famous encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4-42), the woman may have gone seeking water, but it was the Living Water—Jesus Christ—who approached asking for a drink. She, like many of us, had been in survival mode: spiritually dehydrated and used to it. It was not until she encountered the Lord that she began to comprehend the difference between surviving and thriving. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us,
Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him. (2560)
The reality is that even when we pray, even when we put forth the effort, it is really still God pursuing us. Prayer is where earth and heaven collide. Prayer is where our earthly thirst is temporarily satiated by a heavenly spring. It is in prayer that light breathes into moments of darkness, hope vanquishes fear, peace shatters anxiety, and healing pours into every wound. Prayer does not eliminate our crosses, but it offers us a new perspective on them. Prayer is where the cross changes shoulders.
The Power of Proactive Prayer.
The more we pray, the more we will desire to do so. The sooner we realize the power of proactive prayer in the everyday, rather than “reactive” prayer in times of desperation, the more we will trust in the love and presence of God in our daily lives. We soon begin to see that prayer does not “help” our relationship with God; prayer is our relationship with God.
Any relationship, however, takes time and work; a relationship with God is no different. God is willing to fulfill his end. The Lord bids us to ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:7). Note that all three of those actions require effort on our part. That being said, he promises us that “when you . . . pray to me, I will listen to you” (Jeremiah 29:12), and we are reminded, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8). God not only looks at you with great love, just as you are, but also wants you to know him as a trustworthy and faithful friend.
St. Augustine said we are all beggars before God. As such, humility really is the foundation of all prayer (CCC, 2559). The Holy Spirit wants to reward your act of openness. God will not be outdone in generosity. So before you venture into the unknown encounter God has in store for you, say a quick prayer. Give the Lord permission to speak to you in a new way. Ask the Lord to come dwell in you in new ways. Ask the Lord to illuminate your mind. Invite the Lord to occupy your heart. Invite the Lord to move in your soul . . . in his time and according to his perfect plan.
Pray, “Come, Holy Spirit.” Repeat the phrase several times. The Lord is waiting for you. He is the Living Water, ready to satisfy your deepest thirst.
This is a selection from Getting More Out of Prayer edited by Mark Hart (The Word Among Us Press, 2018). Available from wau.org/books