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What's the Best Way to Talk with Jesus?

Dr. Robert Stackpole Answers Your Questions on Divine Mercy

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By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Dec 28, 2014)
One of our readers, a Mr. Tom Bailey, recently sent me a question that has surely been on the minds of many of us at one time or another:

Jesus mentions to Sr. Faustina and to other holy souls that we should talk to Him. What do you think He means? Structured prayer? Praise and glory worship? Or does He mean just talking with Him like He was your good friend? He says we must be like little children, and little children talk plainly; they explain their feelings openly. What is your opinion on this matter of talking to God?

Great question, Tom. It reminds me of an old hymn I used to sing at a YMCA summer camp, when I was a little boy:

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear.
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O, what peace we often forfeit,
O, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.

You are definitely right, Tom: Jesus invites us to approach Him with complete trust and openness, with all the freedom and spontaneity of a child. Over and over again, this is exactly what he encouraged St. Faustina to do as well. You will find the most vivid example of this in her Diary, entries 1485-1490, where Faustina records her conversations with Jesus in the various states of her soul: sometimes sinful, sometimes despairing, sometimes in great suffering or striving after perfection, and even at times attaining perfect love for Him. At every step of the way, Jesus encourages her to be completely honest and sincere with Him:

Be not afraid of your Savior, O sinful soul. I make the first move to come to you, for I know that by yourself you are unable to lift yourself to Me. Child, do not run away from your Father; be willing to talk openly with your God of mercy who wants to speak words of pardon and lavish His graces on you. ... You will give Me pleasure if you hand over to Me all your troubles and griefs. I shall heap upon you the treasures of My grace (1485).

Tell me all, My child, hide nothing from Me, because My loving Heart, the Heart of your Best Friend, is listening to you (1486).

Poor soul, I see that you suffer much and that you do not have even the strength to converse with Me. So I will speak to you. Even though your sufferings were very great, do not lose heart or give in to despondency. But tell Me, My child, who has dared to wound your heart? Tell Me about everything, be sincere in dealing with Me, reveal all the wounds of your heart. I will heal them, and your sufferings will become a source of your sanctification (1487).

Now, we may wonder, Why does Jesus ask us to "reveal" all our miseries to Him? Doesn't He know all about them already? Doesn't He see everything, and understand the sorrows of my heart even better than I do myself?

Of course, that is perfectly true: He does know all about them already. In the same way, you may go to the doctor, and He may already have seen your x-rays before you come in the door of his office. But he still needs you to show him your injured limb, because unless you permit him to, he cannot begin to apply the remedy that you need. In the same way, Jesus, the Beloved Physician of our souls, knows very well what we need even before we ask Him. But asking Him, sincerely sharing everything with Him, is our way of showing Him our spiritual wounds, entrusting our spiritual illnesses into His care. When we do that, He takes it as our consent to do all that He can to heal and sanctify us. That is why He said to St. Faustina when she dared to begin to trust in His mercy in a time of great discouragement:

You have a special claim on My mercy. Let it act in your poor soul; let the rays of grace enter your soul; they bring with them light, warmth, and life (1486).

By the way, this free and spontaneous way of talking to Jesus, and to our heavenly Father, in the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth (Jn 16:13), means that we can and must be completely truthful with Him, even opening to Him our negative feelings: anger, frustration, confusion, and despair. Jesus prayed to His Father with complete candor — and even brutal honesty at times: "Abba, Father, all things are possible to Thee; remove this cup from me. ... My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" (Mk 14:36, 15:34). The Psalms too are filled with this kind of honesty before God:

Give ear to my prayer, O God;
And hide not Thyself from my supplication!
Attend to me and answer me;
I am overcome by my trouble.
I am distraught by the noise of the enemy,
Because of the oppression of the wicked.
For they bring trouble upon me, and in anger
They cherish enmity against me.

My heart is in anguish within me,
the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me,
And horror overwhelms me (Ps 55: 1-5).

And yet, at the same time Jesus and the Psalmist always lead us through these dark nights of the soul to a new dawn. By sharing honestly their human, spiritual suffering with our heavenly Father, they "worked through it," so to speak, and, with the help of His grace came out the other side into the light again. "Father, into They hands I commend my spirit" (Lk 23:46), Jesus said from the Cross, and the Psalmist encouraged us with the words:

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope;
My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
And with Him is plenteous redemption.
And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities (Ps 130: 5-8).

So we are invited to talk with Jesus and our heavenly Father in prayer using our own simple, spontaneous words, any time we wish. How can we be afraid to do so, since He has shown Himself to be the one who loves us with infinite, merciful love?

At the same time, Jesus also encouraged St. Faustina to use more formal prayers at times, prayers already set down in written words. For example, He gave her the beautiful litany of praises of The Divine Mercy (see Diary, 948-949) and a special round of prayers called the Novena to The Divine Mercy (1209-1229). Many people find these prayers helpful for times of mediation and refreshing to the spirit. Our Lord gave to His disciples a "set prayer" too: the Our Father. The Church invites us to say the Daily Office, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist itself is a communal, set prayer.

In the very last book that he wrote before he died, the great Christian apologist C.S. Lewis explained to a friend why he always felt it best to mix in formal, set prayers with his times of more natural, spontaneous talking to God:

The ready-made modicum has its use. ... First, it keeps me in touch with "sound doctrine." Left to oneself, one could easily slide away from "the faith once given" into a phantom called "my religion."

Secondly, it reminds me "what things I ought to ask" (perhaps especially when I am praying for other people). The crisis of the present moment, like the nearest telegraph-post, will always loom largest. Isn't there a danger that our great, permanent, objective necessities — often more important — may get crowded out? ...

Finally, they provide an element of the ceremonial. On your view, that is just what we don't want. On mine, it is part of what we want. I see what you mean when you say that using ready-made prayers would be like "making love to your own wife out of Petrarch or Donne" (Incidentally, might you not quote them — to such a literary wife as Betty?) The parallel won't do.

I fully agree that the relationship between God and a man is more private and intimate than any possible relation between two fellow creatures. Yes, but at the same time there is, in another way, a greater distance between the participants. We are approaching... the Unimaginably and Insupportably Other. We ought to be — sometimes I hope one is — simultaneously aware of the closest proximity and infinite distance. You make things far too snug and confiding. Your erotic analogy needs to be supplemented by "I fell at His feet as one dead"....

A few formal, ready-made prayers serve me as a corrective. ... They keep one side of the paradox alive. Of course, it is only one side. It would be better not to be reverent at all than to have recourse to a reverence which denied the proximity.
(Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, no. 2)

By "reverence" before God, Lewis is not telling us to approach God in servile fear, as if in doubt of His mercy and goodness. Rather, Lewis is telling us that we should include in our prayer life not only the attitude that Jesus is our Best Friend, but also that He is our infinite, radiant, heavenly Lord. The Scriptures say that people sometimes fell on their knees or flat on their faces before the Lord, not because they were afraid of Him, but because they were in awe of Him, overwhelmed with wonder and amazement at His divine glory: "And so with all the choirs of angels in heaven we proclaim your glory and join in their unending hymn of praise: Holy, holy, holy Lord. ..." That too should be an aspect of the way we relate to God, even in our personal prayers, and sometimes using set prayers as part of our daily prayer times with God can help us with this.

Besides, the best set prayers can often express our deepest sentiments and aspirations better than we can do on our own: They give us words that we otherwise might not be able to find to express what is on our hearts. Hymn lyrics are great for this: "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost, but now I'm found, was blind, but now I see." How could we put it any better than that?

Finally, daily set prayers can often be used as "launching pads" for our spontaneous prayers and meditations. Saint Bonaventure used to call this kind of prayer "elevations," because they start with written prayers, Bible passages, or litanies, and yet we are free at any moment to spring up from any line of them into our own reflections, and aspirations toward God: expressions of thanks, praise, adoration, supplication, contrition, or simple longing for His presence.

You see, Tom, Jesus gives us a variety of ways to come into His presence and converse with Him in prayer, from drawing upon the rich treasury of prayers passed down to us in the tradition of His Church, to the most simple, spontaneous, childlike raising of our hearts to God. In our personal prayer times, we are free to use any of these ways, as the Spirit moves us and as our spiritual directors may advise us to do.

Just one last thing: When we are talking with Jesus in prayer, let's remember to keep some times of silence as well, so that we can listen as well as speak, and let Him talk to us!

Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy. Got a question? E-mail him at [email protected].

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Be a part of the discussion. Add a comment now!

Mike - Dec 27, 2018

St John was always by Jesus side. He knew him and chatted with him. That's a good way to think of conversation with Jesus. John wasn't afraid to ask him anything.

Sophia Litzen - Dec 18, 2018

God is always beside you!

G Great ( for making good choices)
O Outstanding ( For making the world )
D Daring ( For risking everything )

Jesus Is Always With You - Dec 18, 2018

He is always with you. With you in the car, at the zoo, even on the couch. JESUS IS ALWAYS WITH YOU. How can we know this for sure? It’s in the Bible! *^• Do not fear, for I am always with you. *^•

Why 333 Is a Great Number - Dec 18, 2018

333 is a great number because Jesus died on the third day, with three men, on the third hour. 3 is a good number too. Think about it. Mother, Father, child. Morning, evening, night. It all makes sense. 333 is a Holy number.

Guardian Angels - Dec 18, 2018

Here is proof of Guardian Angels:

I had a dream that I was outside at night. I look at the left of me and there were three children sitting on a bench. By one of the children was an angel with curly brown hair. I looked up above me and there she was. An angel with a white dress on and with bright blonde hair. She seemed to be glowing.

Jeff Hansen - Oct 16, 2018

Stacy, I really hope that everything you said is alright, I will pray for you even though you posted a while ago. God Bless all of you


Elijah - Oct 16, 2018

I really want to just ask God to help me with Life, to help guide me through, because right now i'am freaking out and I don't know what to do. I just want him to hear me and listen to me. I really hope there is a chance he will be there for me.

Sristu.Sandhyarani - Jan 21, 2018

I want to talk to god....i am having mental and physical health problems

Stacy Donohue - Jul 13, 2017

Please Jesus come to me this night so my prayers will be heard. I am about to lose my home, sons, everything I love because I am poor. I have tried looking for help since no family that will and I find myself more alone. Please hear my prayer 6 days left

Nerone - Mar 2, 2016

My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Azukaego M, - Jan 10, 2016

Thanks a lot for your help.Am relieved.Good bless you.

Romo - Nov 18, 2015

I failed my exam today. Before exam results coming out I was so screw up with my studies and my Part time job. And had a dream even about that someone came to my dream and tell me you failed the exam[maybe jesus or that I was so worried] .I am so depressed right now. Jesus I know you warned me and remained me to make more effort on studies. But now its was my all faults that I didn't pay much time on my studies.

tom bailey houston - Jun 2, 2015

well it is like talking with your mother.

think about this: when your mother wants to tell you something , one generally is quite and still and reflect on her wonderful love she has for you.

Well, reflect on Jesus suffering and listen to Him and talk with Him like you did with your loving mother.

JudKast - Apr 5, 2015

My wife today was a little
"tiff" with me because I was joking with the usher saying "can I have change please" on our contribution to a church we don't belong to. I knew the usher because he was a fellow referee I have known for a long time.
after mass I mentioned that one of my favorite pictures of Christ was the "Laughing Jesus" and relayed this to her - she still did not get it. Like this and that of prayer to Christ as stated here -it is better to have prayer with Christ in a "childlike way" and like chiding with the usher as a child would - my prayers today were also in a child like way; May we all pray and chide with others the best way we can relate to them

amen and Happy Easter

lou - Feb 8, 2015

I'm blessed i found your website,whenever i feel bored,worries and stress financially from my business i easily browse your site using my cellphone, and feel comfortable knowing and understanding the gods word...it helps me lighten my mind...

lou - Feb 8, 2015

I'm blessed i found your website,whenever i feel bored,worries and stress financially from my business i easily browse your site using my cellphone, and feel comfortable knowing and understanding the gods word...it helps me lighten my mind...

ti - Jan 6, 2015

if we close our eyes -and we truely trust- the lord will here us-he knows all-he is with us every min. of every day-until the end of time !!!think about that !!!:)

Prayers Intention - Jan 6, 2015

I love it and I really needed to read that. I was speaking to my friend this evening, and the one talks to god. In addition to they way one uses there words. Amen this help me realize things that wasn't clear to me.

Rey - Jan 6, 2015

Hi Robert! Thank you so much for this article. I learned so much from it. Please never stop writing articles such as this. It really helps. God bless you more!

Net - Jan 5, 2015

I have had some experiences in hearing God speak, not many, but want to hear Him speak more often, I guess like St Faustina or close to her. She is definitely a saint.

marysumalinog davao city - Feb 16, 2008

excellent Robert.God bless.

donna .e. - Feb 15, 2008

Thanks Robert, my favourite part of the article is the last line when you wrote that we should stop talking and listen to what he has to say to us! That is soooo true, really. I used to stop to listen to him a lot more than I do now, I dont know why. I love listening to him more than anything in the whole world. What I noticed happening after i'd stopped listening so much is that i'd just be sitting there and he'd say something remarkable and shocking and wonderful and i'd think im losing it until what he said would happen! Then i'd smile and say yayyyy your talking again! It makes me giggle and feel so warm to know that he is with me and loves me so much that he'll just come right out of nowhere and say something amazing, whether during adoration or not! So yes that advice is of the utmost importance - LISTEN TO HIM AND DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU. AMEN I SAY AMEN!

Michael C. - Feb 14, 2008

Good discourse on the many problems we have talking to God. Like C.S. Lewis says, formal prayters keep us from falling into ourselves and our own Catholicism. But it's good to hear we can be open and honest with God and express our angers and frustrations and failings. That is so important.

Marie Romagnano, RN Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy - Feb 13, 2008

Excellent article Robert on the relationship we can have with Jesus and experience His tenderness and Mercy.