If our faith and hope in God is weak and failing, and we doubt that he will take care of every detail of our life, then there are things we should do. Our faith and hope in God is established in us by a personal relationship and experience of God. If God is remote and distant then it is difficult, even impossible, for us to grow in faith and hope and trust, since these are found in a personal and developing union with God himself and not in knowledge about God.
The first thing we should do is to make ourselves more aware of what God is already doing for us each day. We become disturbed and frustrated when we think that God is not interested in us or acting for us, but this is based on a lack of gratitude, and even a lack of thought or interest. We are absorbed with our own feelings and demand that God act in a certain way, but we are like those lepers who were healed by the Lord Jesus and did not bother to return and give thanks to him.
It is a good habit to learn to give thanks immediately for everything we receive, and to attribute it to God in his loving kindness and mercy. When someone makes us a coffee, we should train ourselves to say Thank you to the person who gives it, and at the same time to say, Thanks to you, O Lord. If we make this a habit then we will begin to see how much is given to us by God each and for which we have failed to be thankful.
At the same time, we should be sure, at the end of the day, especially if we feel that God does not care for us, to gather together those things which God has given us that day and offer them to God in thankful prayer. We should thank God for the rest he has given us over night, for the gift of a new day, for the food we have eaten, for the friends and family who care for us, for our home, our employment, our car, the TV we are watching, the computer we connect to the internet with, everything that we have enjoyed and should appreciate. We must return thanks to God for all of these, otherwise we will not begin to see that far from abandoning us, God is always active for us.
The second thing we must be doing is to seek to grow closer to God. There can be no experience of faith and hope in God if there is not a personal experience of the presence of God himself in our life and in every moment. The experience of God is the fruit and reward of prayer. But we should not imagine that prayer is a duty, the reciting of particular words at particular times to please a distant God. On the contrary, prayer is itself the coming into the presence of God himself.
We can often find ourselves anxious and stressed because we find ourselves facing all manner of problems, and the weight of future responsibilities and even imagined difficulties, Of course there are practical things we can and should do to reduce the stress these place upon us. Making lists, concentrating on immediate actions that need to take place etc. But we can feel that God is distant from us if all we do is occasionally make, them the subject of prayer and then wait for God to take them away.
God is not distant from us, and therefore if we only address him as a distant God, asking for his help when things get too much for us, then we will never enter into the life-giving relationship with God that he desires for us. We can only experience the warmth and love of God as we draw close to him, and discover in a personal way this divine life which he waits to pour into our hearts.
So what are we to do to draw near to God? These are things necessary for all, but especially those who feel the effects of a distance from God and a lack of personal relationship. We must set aside time in the morning and evening to step into God’s presence as much as we are able and both prepare ourselves for the day, and to give thanks for what was received. and for the night that lies ahead. It is not immediately necessary that we pray the whole of the morning and evening hour, but we should pray some of it – but it must be prayer offered as a personal expression of our heart with warmth and attention.
We must turn the words we pray into the expression of our own heart. This requires effort, but the fruitfulness of prayer, as the means of drawing into the presence of God, depends on our effort, our attention and warmth. It is better to begin with a little prayer if we struggle so much, but we must make time for God in the morning and the evening, or we have no hope of discovering faith and trust in God, since these are only found in a growing union with God.
We must also read a small portion of the Gospel each day. This cannot be an optional extra, as if we expect everything from God with no effort. We would not be wise if we treated the instructions of a Doctor in such a way if we were seeking treatment for a medical condition. On the contrary, we would be careful to do all that he asked of us, and whatever effort was needed we would commit ourselves to perform and follow every direction.
so we must read a portion of the Gospel. We can read the passage provided for the Liturgy of the day, or we can follow some other plan to read through the Gospels. But we must not read as if it is a duty, but with the same attention and warmth, expecting that God will speak to us in what we read. We read slowly and carefully. We have in mind our circumstances, situation and anxieties, and we find in the Gospel some phrase or sentence or teaching that especially seems relevant. In such a way we come to understand and experience that God is not distant from us, but waits for us to listen and be encouraged and sustained.
And in the third place, we need to begin to live in God’s presence in every moment of each day, not as if this was something only for the holiest of hermits hidden in a cave, but because this is what God desires for every person he has created, so that we grow into union with him by the divine life and energy which is poured out into our hearts.
We begin to experience this presence of God by making it a practice to pray the little prayer – Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy. This is not something we pray as if it will please a distant God and inspire him to do things for us, but when we pray this prayer with attention and warmth we discover that we are already in God’s presence, and it is this divine presence which will slowly heal our sickness of heart, and fill our emptiness, and give us courage and hope, a personal faith and trust.
When you are driving, pray this little prayer as much as you can, and with as much attention and warmth as possible. When you are walking. When you are sitting quietly. Even when you are in Church. We pray this prayer. We do not expect immediate results, But like sitting in the sunshine, we slowly find that it has an effect on us, even in a way we cannot explain or notice. There is a need for us to make an effort if we really want to begin to live in the presence of God and find our anxieties slowly relieved. More than anything else, this little prayer will help us to grown into God’s presence when we make it a habit, because it will rise up into our consciousness whenever we are still for a moment, encouraging and inviting us to enter into prayer again, and discover within ourselves the warmth of God’s presence himself.
Here is the key. As soon as we become aware that we have ceased to pray we must begin again. And in doing so we discover that we are praying more and more. Not as if this was a practice that makes God reward us, but as a means of entering into God’s presence ourselves, so that God himself is the reward himself of our prayers.
There is only healing when we enter into the presence of God himself. These are not things to be done apart from our healing. These are not spiritual things which are to be dismissed when we are struggling with practical problems. But there is no hope for us, no means to discover faith and life in God, unless we engage in all of these things as being absolutely necessary for us. Not possibly useful but absolutely necessary if we want any experience of God, and if we want any growth in peace and life. Apart from God there is no hope or faith, and hope and faith are to be experienced in union with God, in encountering God in every moment, or they cannot be known at all.