“Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”
It was a question I was asked on a fairly regular basis, waiting at a bus stop in my college town. It annoyed me back then: I was still in my “religion is the opiate of the masses” phase. I’m more tolerant of the question now because it is something asked by two kinds of people: those who don’t care about the personal relationship as much as they like to proselytize (and they are easily thwarted and flummoxed with a few clever scriptural passages. Try it, you’ll see.). . . .or those who seem to be genuine in their desire to spread the name of Jesus, as they go away satisfied when they hear even a rudimentary knowledge of the Bible.
In truth, though, it is a real question. Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? I wish I didn’t associate it with bus stop or door-to-door evangelists. It works better for me to frame this a la Teresa of Avila, “Do you take time frequently to be alone with Him who loves you?”
For this is what we strive for, in prayer. We want to spend time with God. Prayer can take different forms: adoration, supplication, thanksgiving, expiation. Ultimately, though, all prayer should lead us closer to God. That is the point of “Thy will be done.” We put forth our desires, but we acknowledge that, in the end, God’s will be done. The more we travel the spiritual road, the more we come to accept His will, even when (especially when) it differs from ours. In the end, if we’ve done it right, our will and God’s will are united.
So, what on earth does this have to do with children and prayer? Well, “Do you have a personal relationship with God” is a question we should consider for ourselves, as parents. After all, we cannot give to our children what we don’t have ourselves. Part of passing on the faith to the next generation needs to include the keys to a rich interior prayer life, which is the means to a personal relationship with God. We help children to become well-formed on the tenets of the faith, we teach them the rudiments of prayer, and we provide the time and space for them to cultivate the contemplative life.
Many people reading this already have a prayer routine. If you are struggling with how to cultivate some routine in your prayer life, here are some sources for reflection you might find helpful.
1) Fr. John McCloskey: The Seven Daily Habits of Holy Apostolic People
2) Connie Rossini: Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints that will Change Your Life
3) Blessed John Henry Newman: Meditations andDevotions states:
“If you ask me what you are to do in order to be perfect, I say, first – Do not lie in bed beyond the due time of rising; give your first thoughts to God; make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament; say the Angelus devoutly; eat and drink to God’s glory; say the Rosary well; be recollected; keep out bad thoughts; make your evening meditation well; examine yourself daily; go to bed in good time, and you are already perfect.”
In closing, a quotation from a book about the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites:
“Teresa stresses that the essence of friendship is to make sure that our will is one with that of Christ. Bringing our wills into conformity with the Will of Christ is the very essence of friendship. Once again, she assures us that prayer is not a practice to make us feel good, to give us spiritual comfort and consolation. But prayer is designed to make us draw closer to Christ, to bring our will into conformity with His divine Will.” (Welcome to Carmel, page 42)
This is the essence of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.