As we read the accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry in the Gospels, we find Him often in prayer. As we live our lives in expectation of encounter with Christ, we should therefore expect to encounter Him in our times of prayer. What practices of prayer prepare us to recognize Christ when we encounter Him?
One way to cultivate our awareness of encounter with Christ in prayer and in life is the Prayer of Examen. In this prayer, we begin by praying for Christ to be with us and illuminate our day. We continue by prayerfully reviewing the events of the day in the presence of Christ and noticing the times in which we were aware of His presence with us and the times we were unaware or even willfully disregarded His presence with us. We offer thanksgiving and seek forgiveness as appropriate. We also notice the relationships and challenges which we are unable to reconcile or resolve on our own and seek His intervention. Finally, we look forward in His light, His strength, and His promise at the day that still lies before us.
Another way that we might expect to encounter Christ in our prayer is in the ways that He prayed. As we look again at the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ prayers, we find Him often engaged in Prayers of Praise. Often, Jesus spontaneously prays, “Father, I thank you…” We can engage in this type of prayer as often as we become aware of the presence of God in our lives. As our awareness increases, we will indeed pray without ceasing!
We also notice Jesus engaging in the Prayer of Submission. Particularly in the garden of Gethsemane as Jesus faces his betrayal, trial, crucifixion, and death, he prays, “Not my will, but yours, be done.” This is not an easy or casual prayer. Jesus agonized in this prayer to the degree that blood dripped from his pores like sweat. As we are in agony wrestling with our own will to submit to submit to the perfect will of God, we encounter Jesus as Emmanuel, God with Us. He does not leave us alone as we come to grips with our own desire to control and our call to follow in faith. As we encounter Christ in this prayer, we also encounter grace as we walk in His faith when our own falters.
We also encounter Jesus as Emmanuel in the Prayer of Lament. We lament as we come to see the great dissonance between the justice, mercy, and love of God and our experience of the injustice, cruelty, and hatred of the world around us. We call out to God with David, with Jesus, and all the faithful, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” In the loneliness and despair of our lament, we encounter the suffering of Christ as He waits with us in our pain, sorrow, and confusion. He waits until Grace touches us and we once again praise the justice, love, and mercy of God even in our pain. We praise because in our encounter with the suffering of Christ, we also encounter His Resurrection.
In your prayers, may you encounter Christ in His Incarnation, Life, Ministry, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension.