Perhaps the most moving parts of Star Wars are to see the Jedi meditate. There is a famous scene in The Empire Strikes Back where tiny old Yoda closes his eyes intensely, stretches out his hand like a priest toward Luke’s spaceship, and slowly and majestically it raises out of the swamp and lands on the land. Like the best parts of science fiction, this too is borrowed from the Church: it is called prayer.
Prayer is a non-negotiable part of a Christian’s day: I am a Christian, therefore I pray, I spend time with God who has redeemed me and gives me all things. Because this is prayer: spending time with my Beloved. As St Teresa of Avila teaches us, Contemplative prayer in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us. (CCC 2709). This is the first reason we pray – because we love him: that is what we do with people we love. Also: it is very hard to be a Christian if we don’t pray – it is hard to follow someone if we don’t spend time with them! As we heard in the Gospel: ‘Come and see’ he replied; so they went and saw where he lived, and stayed with him the rest of that day.
Perhaps the greatest thing about prayer is the intimacy we experience. It is interesting you know, in the first reading: Samuel does not approach a being he does not know; rather he is approached by a person who knows him, who calls him by name – ‘Samuel! Samuel!’. And this happens at the most intimate moment – at the dead of night while he is sleeping. And this is one of the marvels of prayer: that there is no greater intimacy possible for a human being. Even if we consider the intimacy of man and wife – it is still a poor second to prayer. Because our relationship with God is far more intimate than with our spouse!:- my spouse knows me better than anyone – but God knows me better than even myself; my spouse has a place in my heart – but God dwells in my heart!; when married we do most things together – but, even if I want to, God is with me always; even more the bodily intimacy I may have with my spouse – God’s entire body becomes part of mine at Holy Communion, and my body becomes part of his. Even the joy of marital unity is still briefer, shallower and less fulfilling than the joy of intimacy with pure perfection, who is my creator.
This is why, while marriage is profoundly good and beautiful, it is never one’s ultimate happiness. And why attempts to improve or get around marriage – the fornication St Paul is talking about – sleeping with people we have not married, impure acts, pornography or impure thoughts – why all these things do not console us but rather leave us empty and bitter. And why such evil can be countered and stopped through having a deep prayer life, of profound intimacy with the creator.
So for the Christian, the only question is not if I should pray, but when and how. Perhaps the simplest way is to simply sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament, or an icon at home for 10 minutes each day. Make the sign of the cross, beg God’s pardon for your sins, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you in prayer, give the Father all your worries, ask whatever you want, and just sit with him, letting him love you and loving him back in the return. If you do this every day, you will find that your heart begins to be unlocked and your life becomes simpler and far happier.