I think we have all had the experience of someone important showing up at a key time in our lives and making a difference. When my grandmother died, one of my oldest friends, whom I had not seen for about 15 years, came to the gathering we had after the burial service. He couldn’t stay long. He didn’t have any incredible words of wisdom. But his presence was a great comfort. He knew my grandmother. He had spent countless hours at her kitchen table. He had joked with her and listened to her stories. And he knew me because we had spent those hours together. So, his presence on the day we buried my grandmother made a huge difference.
Simple presence. We often underestimate the power of simply being together, and giving one another our full attention as we go about our ordinary lives. Cultivating a habit of being fully present enables us to know one another on a deep level. It can also help us to know God.
Ronald Rolheiser, in his book, Prayer: Our Deepest Longing, notes that prayer is not always exciting or inspiring. He compares prayer to a devoted son visiting his elderly mother in a nursing home every day after work. Most of these visits do not include deep conversations or extraordinary experiences. They talk about the way they spent their days, the grandchildren, the food at the nursing home. But after years of these visits, there is a bond and a love between the two that is extraordinary. Rolheiser suggests that prayer is often like this. We simply spend time with God, sharing life together, and, over time, a closeness and love develops that sustains and strengthens us in all circumstances.
Simply taking the time to be with another person is sometimes the greatest gift we can give. In these days of social distancing, we need to work a little harder to communicate that we are present, over the phone, through Zoom, or from behind a mask when we do get together in person. But the extra effort is worth it because we can still connect. Presence still matters. Sometimes, it may also feel difficult to connect with God. However, simply taking the time to be with God can be the way to nurture a relationship that transforms our lives and enables us to receive the love that God has for us. In many ways, this is the essence of prayer, and God is always available to spend some time with us.