Up until I was a freshman at a public university, I thought a relationship with Jesus was a protestant thing. It wasn’t until a FOCUS missionary convinced me that if I was going to be a good Christian I needed to have a personal relationship with Jesus. This was the point in my life that I started to take my prayer life seriously.
After that conversation, I would go to our Newman Center once a week for a Holy Hour. I would stare at Jesus in the Eucharist, and He would stare back. Neither of us would say anything. When I brought this up to my spiritual director, he smiled and said, “Why don’t you try praying like a pirate?”
What my spiritual director was referring to was a version of relational prayer called ARRR. Acknowledge, Relate, Receive, and Respond. Here’s now it works:
Sit with Jesus in the Eucharist and start taking inventory of your day. What did I do yesterday/this morning? Was it the same as what God wanted me to do? You could do an Ignatian Examen, and look at your day hour by hour, or you could simply ask yourself what you are currently feeling and why. The three things to pay attention to are your thoughts, feelings, and desires. What is God showing me in my life, and why is He showing them to me?
Often, if we are receptive to God’s grace, He will inspire us to move using our thoughts, feelings, and desires. For men especially, acknowledging these takes practice. It doesn’t come naturally for men to be able to articulate their feelings or even acknowledge if they exist at all. But this will come with practice.
Tell God exactly what you just told yourself. Make it a conversation. Say, “Jesus, I was so happy when my girlfriend surprised me at work on Tuesday.” Then tell Him why you’re happy. God already knows all of it, but He wants to hear it from you. It’s just like a parent who lets their child tell them all about a movie the parent has already seen. The child is excited, so the parent is too.
This is also the time to relate your heart to God. Just have a conversation with Him. When I started praying this way, I found it helpful to just have an interior monologue, but address it to Jesus. For example, instead of thinking to myself “I’ve just been so busy lately”, I would say “Jesus, I’ve just been so busy lately.” It changes the dynamic from speaking about yourself to yourself to speaking about yourself to Jesus. The rest of the conversation will flow from that point. You may also want to use this tool.
Now it’s God’s turn to do all the hard work. Dispose yourself to God’s love and He will fill you with it. Use Mary as an example. During the annunciation, she didn’t tell the angel “Ok, I’ll do it” like a secretary doing her duty. Instead, she said, “Be it done unto me”. She desired to passively receive the grace God was about to give her. If you’re having trouble with this step, ask Mary how she did it.Do a Lectio Divina on the story of the annunciation in the Gospel of Luke. Mary will hold your hand and lead you through it. In this step, all we do is listen.
Receiving God’s grace calls for a response. What is God calling you to do today? What did God say about what you related to Him? Finally, make sure to thank God for the graces he gave you. This is how you build a relationship.
“Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourself.” -James 1:22
Brothers and sisters, prayer is a habit. During your Holy Hours, you are building your spiritual muscle. The first time you do this exercise may not be easy, but you will get stronger. You will more easily be able to articulate your thoughts, feelings, and desires and bring them to Jesus. The voice of God will become more clear. Don’t be discouraged. A relationship with Jesus (just like all relationships) will have peaks and valleys. But God will never quit pursuing you.