So how do we have a personal encounter with Jesus? We talk to Him.
I’ve written elsewhere about the value of praying the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Those are exceptional, efficacious prayers that lead to the salvation of souls. They are prayers that Jesus and Mary have expressly asked us to pray. (1)
But Jesus Himself also spoke with Saint Faustina about His longing for us to speak with Him directly about our lives:
At that moment Jesus asked me, “My child, how is your retreat going?”
I answered, “But, Jesus, You know how it is going.”
“Yes, I know, but I want to hear it from your own lips and from your heart.”
“O my Master, when You are leading me, everything goes smoothly, and I ask You, Lord, to never leave my side.”
And Jesus said, “Yes, I will be with you always, if you always remain a little child and fear nothing.” (Diary, 295)
This is not the only passage in the Diary where Jesus implores Saint Faustina to talk to Him about her day, to bring her hopes and fears before Him. Even though He knows all these things already, Jesus longs to have a personal encounter with us, and He will do so if we come to Him in prayer with a sincere and contrite heart.
So spontaneous prayer, talking with Jesus, is very important. We can do this at anytime, and should do it every time the Holy Spirit moves us. But it‘s also worthwhile to set aside a specific time each day for this practice, in order to make it a habit.
We shouldn’t be merely asking Jesus for things during our spontaneous prayer. To be sure, Jesus wants us to bring our needs before Him, and He is pleased not just when we ask for small things, but especially when we ask for great things, because it shows that our trust in Him is great. “The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive. Souls that trust boundlessly are a great comfort to me, because I pour out all the treasures of my graces into them. I rejoice that they ask for much, because it is my desire to give much, very much.” (Diary, 1578)
But we also need to thank Jesus at least as often as we ask things of Him. The story of the ten lepers is instructive:
One of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?” (Luke 17:16-17)
I imagine Jesus is thanked once for every ten graces He grants. Maybe less. As we talk to Him, we become more aware of His presence in the everyday events of our lives and the graces He is bestowing on us. We always need to thank Him for those moments of grace.
We also need to share with Jesus our faults and ask him for the grace not to sin. This isn’t a substitute for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but rather a recognition that even great saints struggle with the temptation to sin and commit venial sins, and only with God’s grace can we fight against these things that offend Him. Saint Faustina shared this story:
When one day I resolved to practice a certain virtue, I lapsed into the vice opposed to that virtue ten times more frequently than on other days. In the evening, I was reflecting on why, today, I had lapsed so extraordinarily, and I heard the words: “You were counting too much on yourself and too little on Me.” And I understood the cause of my lapses.
(1) Spontaneous prayer and prayers such as the Rosary and the Chaplet are not mutually exclusive. You can enrich the experience of the Rosary by incorporating spontaneous prayer into it.
Image: Francois Boucher, Saint Peter Attempting to Walk on Water (downloaded from Wikipedia Commons).