Becoming a Listening Servant

by Katie Rich

By swallowing New England whole, Juno has given me the much sought-after gift of time by stranding me in DC in my friend’s apartment.  After reading my assignments, cleaning her kitchen, taking several showers, baking cookies, and dancing around the empty apartment, I settled on using the time for reflection.  My friend had a book poking out of her purse entitled We Have Come to Adore Him: An Introduction to Prayer at the School of Benedict XVI by a certain Fr. Andreas Schmidt.  Intriguing, no?  (Even for a non-Catholic nerd unlike myself, anything with words looks riveting after scrubbing baked zucchini off of a cookie sheet).  I flipped to the dog-eared page to find the subtitle “An Encounter with a Friend.”  I read on:

What should we say in this encounter?  Just as in every genuine and deep relationship, we share what is really in our heart.  Everything that moves you and that you would share with your dearest friend: gratitude and love, pleas and questions, laments, joy and praise.  And as in every friendship – this is important! – every real encounter is two-sided. Benedict says this explicitly: Prayer involves listening to Jesus’ voice…. We must say to the Lord again and again, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening!” (1 Samuel 3:9). And not, though we would very much like to say this at times, “Listen, Lord, your servant is speaking!”


Recently, I’ve found myself sitting in Adoration and combing through my mind, searching for things to tell, as this author would say, my Friend.  Well, Lord, today has been fine. The rain isn’t great, but I can tolerate it.  Did I do well on the essay I turned in an hour ago?  Please let me have done well.  That’d be swell.  I love you, Lord.  Oh, and please look after my mother and her broken foot.  The litany continues for an hour, until someone comes to relieve me and I head back into the bustling world, “Holy Hour” crossed off my list.  But was any of that holy?


St. Ignatius says in his First Principle and Foundation that “the human person is created to praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord, and by doing so, to save his or her soul.”  Praising, revering, and serving can be done in a multitude of ways, one of which must include prayer.  Prayer is our great vehicle, our path to knowing and loving God, just as talking with one another is our road to friendship.  But how can we be friends if we merely rattle off a stream of consciousness before a monstrance?


First, it is important in Adoration to really take the time and accept that the Creator of the Universe is before you.  Ponder that for a moment, and you won’t find yourself complaining about the rain. Next, it is equally important to realize that this Creator of the Universe is also the Being that loves you the most, that this Being loves you so much that without that love, you would cease to exist.  Your entire reason for living is so that Being can love you.


How often do we sit and inadvertently think, “Listen, Lord, your servant is speaking!”  Would we dare say that to a professor, a friend, or even anyone we respect?  Of course not.  Then why do we have no problem saying it to God, who deserves our bent ears infinitely more?


The book’s appendix includes Pope Benedict’s Sydney World Youth Day homily.  In it, he says, “God’s love can only unleash its power when it is allowed to change us from within.  We have to let it break through the hard crust of our indifference, our spiritual weariness, our blind conformity to the spirit of this age. Only then can we let it ignite our imagination and shape our deepest desires.  That is why prayer is so important… Prayer is pure receptivity to God’s grace, love in action, communion with the Spirit who dwells within us, leading us, through Jesus, in the Church, to our heavenly Father.” 


Next time you settle down to pray, be quiet and say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening,” because it is only in the space between your clanging thoughts that God can speak to you, and unleash His power within you.

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