Pray like a Professional: Pray like John the Evangelist

Pray like a Professional: Pray like John the Evangelist December 27, 2023

Pray like a professional. We can look at so many aspects of life where we expect a lot of effort and constancy to be successful. Some may think that it is outrageous that a baseball player can make 700 million dollars, like Shohei Ohtani, but we know we cannot hit a fastball nor throw one like he can. We know that lawyers and doctors take years to complete their degrees and get the proper licensing. So, why do we assume that prayer should be easy or we quit?

When Hans Urs Von Balthasar wants to give an example of what it is like to be a contemplative Christian, he turns to the Beloved Disciple: John the Evangelist. St. John is known for his closeness to Jesus. He was probably younger than the other disciples; he was certainly a faster runner than St. Peter. (cf. Jn. 20:4) When it was time for him to form a religious community, he called it the community of St. John, remembering the youngest of the apostles.

John’s youth allowed him to develop more. He was already a sensitive soul. Being a younger brother, he was attentive to Jesus. Jesus included him in the inner circle several times during his public ministry. John knew how to work, growing up fishing with his father and brother. He applied that work ethic to his prayer, his preaching, and his writing. John knew how to pray like a professional because he did it all his life.

The Gospel of John is fascinating because it feels more psychological. He gets into the mind of Jesus and shares his thoughts. He lets us know what Jesus has on his mind and in his heart.

Authenticity

At first glance, John the Evangelist seems to be completely different from John the Baptist. John the Baptist seems to be rugged and tough, while John the Evangelist gives us the impression of being refined and educated. However, before he received his call from Jesus, he was following John the Baptist. Indeed, John the Baptist sent him to Jesus. Like John the Baptist, he focused on finding the Messiah and living his faith as authentically as possible. To pray like a professional, you need to be authentic. A great help for this is to get back to confession.

John stands with the eagle, his symbol
Statue of St. John the Evangelist | courtesy of Pixabay

Tenderness

I have always seen a certain parallel John and the women of the Gospel. He treats them with a special delicate touch, like the evangelist Luke the Physician. I think John was more aware of the way that women approached Jesus because he also had a more delicate soul. He was strong and manly yet maintained a certain tenderness in his approach to Jesus.

Time

To pray like a professional, you need to dedicate time. As an exercise, read through the Gospel of John; then, read the letters that come late in the New Testament. Even though the Gospel is beautiful and touching, the letters show another level of depth. He has spent time contemplating Jesus and it shows in the way he speaks about him and Christian life.

Already in the Gospel, we catch hints that John spent a lot of time thinking about the things he experienced with Jesus. One scene that I love is the resurrection. John and Peter run to the tomb. John remarks that the linens were folded. He spent time ruminating everything he experienced with Jesus, allowing him to go deeper and draw out deeper meaning.

Mary

The last key that John gives us to having a contemplative relationship to Jesus is that he took care of Mary. At the Cross, Jesus entrusted his mother to John. How many hours must they have spent together! These two helped one another. John offered his strength, youth, and vigor to Mary. She instructed him and shared with him her tender, motherly heart.

“If there is one characteristic topic that emerges from John’s writings, it is love.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 9 August 2006) Pope Benedict shared this masterfully in his first encyclical letter, Deus Caritas Est.

To pray like a professional, you have to learn how. Why not take a great spiritual master like St. John the Evangelist? Each day, you can learn something more from him and integrate it into your own life of prayer. Are you willing to try?

About Fr. Nicholas Sheehy, LC
Fr. Nicholas Sheehy was ordained a Catholic priest in 2013 for the Legionaries of Christ. He has been involved in youth work including missions, retreats and apostolic outreach in Germany, Italy, the United States and Central America. He is passionate about the New Evangelization and formation for young adults and married couples. He is a spiritual director and retreat director, offering marriage preparation and marriage counseling through the Divine Mercy Clinic and Family Center. He is currently Executive Director and Chaplain of the Newman Center at St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Pasadena, California. You can read more about the author here.
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