God is the hidden teacher of prayer. All you need to bring for prayer is yourself and your desire to know God personally, directly. If you do not have that desire, then this book is not for you, at least not at the present moment of your life. The thing is, you do not know what tomorrow may bring, and the closer you get to life’s inevitable end, the greater will be your desire to know what or who may be on the other side. Thus, religion has been defined as our “ultimate concern.” That means “ultimate” in two senses: what matters most today, the ground on which you stand; and what matters most as you draw near to the “event horizon” of the black hole called death. As you will hopefully discover, if you have not already, there is no ground as powerful, unshakable, and enduring as that of God, our one true “ground of being.”
The seeking of God for God’s self is of course not the only form of prayer, but it is the most important. Granted, we all pray for the safety and well-being of ourselves, our family and loved ones. We also pray for those in need, from our neighbors to our nation, from our environment to the world, as well as doing what we can to make a difference. We pray about our fears and hopes and desires for differing outcomes. Prayers about these concerns will definitely be addressed in the prayer exercises which follow. Yet my major thrust throughout will be on turning a prayer monologue into a prayer dialogue with God. However subtle it may be, imagine sensing God’s ineffable presence rather like your skin senses a wondrous spring breeze. Not only is direct knowledge of God possible; it is an unending desire dwelling silently in the depths of your heart.
This is a progressive or growth book. I begin with simple yet effective breath prayers, then move on to praying the scriptures, followed by praying with the saints. Next will come meditative prayer; and lastly, contemplative prayer. The final section is for those who are prepared to go deeper into prayer, those who seek conscious connection with God. I was not always ready for contemplative prayer. But when my desire for God reached critical mass, I discovered the prayer encounters of medieval Christian mystics. These saints may seem out of style now, since we have been stuck in a “scientific mindset” for the last two hundred years. But the time is coming, and may now be here, when what Fr. Karl Rahner prophesied will prove true: “The Christian of the future will be a mystic, or will not exist at all.”
Everything is at stake in the long overdue return to the focus on knowing God directly. Such knowledge permeated the medieval mystic saints. I hope this book will be of assistance to those who seek an immediate encounter with the ultimate beauty, goodness and truth: God.
I have lived and prayed through the contents of this book. And I have learned the simple truth that, if you seek God with all your heart, you will find God (see Jeremiah 29:13-14). In fact, you cannot seek God unless God already seeks you. Your desire is itself God’s invitation, engraved upon your heart. Trust that invitation and let your heart lead you to God. It alone knows the way. Your prayer journey will be the most profound passage of and through your life.
I begin the book with the question, “What is prayer?” Prayer is communication with God in all its forms. This includes intimate as well as seemingly distant communication, from monologues to dialogues, from texts to touch, from speech to silent communion. Prayer establishes the bridge between God and humanity. It is as vital to our personal well-being to develop a flourishing prayer life, as it is to learn how to communicate love to human loved ones.
An analogy may be helpful here. There are two sides or hemispheres to the human brain. What connects them, so that they can communicate with each other, and work together for that person to be whole and healthy, is a band of neural fibers called the “corpus callosum.” If this band is damaged or destroyed, that person can no longer function fully as themselves.
To extend the analogy: let the left hemisphere represent our embodied being connected to the physical universe. And let the right hemisphere represent our spiritual being connected to the unseen kingdom of God. That means we have a “joint citizenship” in both this cosmos and heaven. This was already understood by St. Augustine back in the fifth century C E.
Here is the deal: we are meant to live in both hemispheres at the same time. Call the spiritual domain a “parallel universe,” or perhaps an undiscovered dimension of a “multiverse.” It is at least as vast than the physical universe. When you pray through this spiritual “corpus callosum” which exists invisibly between you and God, you enter into this “other side,” which at the same time enters into you. You come from and belong to this spiritual hemisphere of heaven, and when you cease to exist in the physical universe, you will find yourself in this, your true home. As Augustine prayed, “Our hearts are restless until they find rest in You.”
My purpose in these prayer exercises is to assist you to enter more fully into a daily dialogue with God across the connective fibers of prayer. That includes entering into the spiritual kingdom of God, while consenting to God’s entrance into you. May you discover the astounding things God can do for you even in brief prayers.
Praise for Pray This Way to Connect with God
“Green provides an excellent roadmap to begin a life of prayer, to discover ‘how to do it’ and to explore different styles and models together with a rich, guided selection for praying with Scripture and with the saints. Green’s lifelong scholarly work as one of the world’s foremost experts on dialogical philosophy and thought deeply informs this present work to the great benefit of each reader who longs to dialogue with God in fruitful prayer.”
—Joseph R. Chapel, Seton Hall University
“Pray Like This to Connect with God contains valuable insights and practical applications gleaned from Hal Green’s lifelong dedication to spiritual growth. It is an essential resource filled with wisdom for anyone seeking depth and development in a relationship with the Holy One. Each page invites the reader to savor its treasury of insight and inspiration.”
—Joyce Rupp, author of Return to the Root: Reflections on the Inner Life
“One thing that I always admired about Hal Green is that he has this wonderful gift of getting right to the point. The title of the book captures this transformative gift; it is a proclamation not to be taken for granted: pray like this to connect with God. I would add an awareness that God has already connected with you. The key on your part is to pray.”
—Carl J. Arico, founding member of Contemplative Outreach
About the Author
Hal Green is a former professor of psychology, philosophy, and religion. He is the author of The Heart of Jesus and the Coming Relationship (2018) and Closer Than Your Own I. Meditations on Union with God (2018). Hal has led numerous prayer retreats across America’s heartland.