Individuals who are in their first year of teaching, priesthood, medicine, marriage or golf are well advised to seek counsel. A mentor or coach can make all the difference in the world.
The disciples of Jesus, fresh from leaving their boats or tax booth or whatever, were in need of guidance. They turned to Jesus, the mentor and master, and asked him to teach them how to pray. Jesus did not give them a three-hour lecture or give them an outline. No, he gave them a simple but powerful oration called the “Our Father.”
I don’t know who Abraham’s mentor was, but he learned well. In his dialogue (prayer) with God, old Abraham came out with two guns blazing. In that magnificent art of bargaining, Abraham was able to get God to forego destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah if but 10 just people could be found. Here is a bold prayer, one filled with confidence. Each of us might turn to Abraham as a mentor in our prayer life.
St. Paul, being so faith-filled and knowledgeable, appears to be in no need of a coach or mentor. His conversion experience put him on the road to discipleship and he never turned back. Yet, St. Paul relied upon the faith of the early Christian communities to assist him in his own growth toward holiness. Many individuals, both men and women, helped Paul to a deeper relationship with the Lord.
If you are in need of a prayer mentor, here are some possible instructors with a lesson or two:
Michael Downey: “But prayer, the silent, loving, attentive heart at rest in God, a whole way of life. Prayer is living from the heart in response to the life which pours itself forth: Love.” (cf. “Altogether Gift,” 119)
Brigid E. Herman: “Prayer in its essence is communion with God. The simplest analogy — that of loving trustful discourse between friend and friend — is also the most profound.” (cf. “Creative Prayer,” 8)
Thomas Merton: “Prayer then means yearning for the simple presence of God, for a personal understanding of his word, for knowledge of his will and for capacity to hear and to obey him. It is thus something much more than uttering petitions for good things external to our own deepest concerns.” (cf. “Contemplative Prayer, 67)
Questions for reflection
1. Who are your mentors?
2. Whom do you coach on life’s journey?
3. Who taught you how to pray?
Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.