By Rachel Kenyon
Often we think that prayer means to sit in a chapel for hours on end, repeating set prayers, but being in a fast-paced society like Singapore, we cannot “afford the time” to pray. St Teresa of Avila defines prayer to be “nothing else than an intimate friendship, a frequent heart-to-heart conversation with Him by whom we know ourselves to be loved.” Thus, prayer is essentially a friendly conversation with Jesus! Keeping that in mind, here are five places that you never thought to pray at.
- MacRitchie Reservoir Park
Prayer is also a relationship with the Lord who loves us and could be described as a journey, just like the Israelites heading to the promised land and growing in relationship with God during that time. A hike in MacRitchie might be a time of meeting the Lord through nature, something of abundance in one of Singapore’s more popular nature parks. Pope Emeritus Benedict XIV once shared that being “in contact with nature, people can find their true dimension. They rediscover themselves as creatures, small, but, at the same time, unique.” Personally, I enjoy the Treetop walk and the Red Trail as they allow me to experience the vastness of God’s creation and reminds me of the great love that God has for me as He assures me that I am more loved than the alluring flora and fauna I am surrounded by (Matt 6:25). Next time you take a walk at MacRitchie, ask the Lord to reveal Himself in the beauty of His creation, also knowing that you are the pinnacle of God’s creation (Gen 1:26-28)!
Where: MacRitchie Reservoir Park, Singapore 298717 (To enter the Red Trial, you can enter the park from the entrance next to St Theresa’s Home).
How to get there: Marymount MRT, 167, 852, 980, 52, 74, 130, 132, 162M, 162, 163, 165 & 166.
Opening Hours: Closed on Mondays (unless it is a public holiday), Tuesdays to Fridays — 9am to 5pm, Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays — 8.30am to 5pm.
- The Carmelite Monastery
Nestled nicely between the AYE and blocks of HDB flats, the Carmelite monastery is home to cloistered nuns who are always praying for the needs of our archdiocese. Within that compound sits a simple chapel where Mass is celebrated daily at 6.30am. Walking into the monastery, visitors are greeted by a sense of tranquility and peace — a tiny glimpse of heaven in my opinion. The stillness and peace of the monastery reminds me of the presence of God in my present state spiritually, and even physically. This quietness encourages me to be still both interiorly and exteriorly, to sit patiently and listen to the truths that God has prepared for me. (1 Kings 19:11-13)
Where: 98 Bukit Teresa Road, Singapore 099750
How to get there: 124, 143, 166 & 61, get off at St Teresa’s Church, walk past CHIJ Kellock and head up the hill. Take the staircase on the right.
Opening Hours: 9am to 11am and 2.30pm to 4.30pm daily.
- Out on the streets
While we earlier mentioned that God is a God of silence, God can also speak through the people we meet on the streets. From a cheery bus captain to an elderly couple holding hands, God reveals more of Himself and more of ourselves to us. In cultivating a relationship with Jesus, He also invites us to recognise Him in the people that we encounter as He says in Matt 25:40 “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me.” Let us be sensitive to how God is present in the people we meet!
- In your room
Sacred space is a specially designated spot for the anyone to spend some quiet time in prayer, that can be easily carved out in your room. A space that is comfortable and cosy enough for you, but not too cosy that you fall asleep. In your sacred space, it would be good to have different prompts and aids to help you in your recollection and keep you focused — Sacred Scripture, a crucifix, a rosary, a candle or your favourite image are good items that can help to facilitate prayer. For me, having a prayer space in my bedroom is great, it is the first thing I see in the morning and the last thing I see at night, reminding me of the Father’s protective presence in my life, claiming God’s promise in the book of Isaiah 26:3 “You keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts you.”
St Teresa of Jesus, one of the saints known for her mastery of prayer, describes prayer to simply be a ‘close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us’. Understanding prayer as such means that one would be able to converse with Christ (as with a friend), anywhere and everywhere. St Alphonsus encourages us to make contact with God frequently through raising our hearts to Him through “loving affections that may be practised in all places and in all times”. He continues by saying that “these affections may be acts of election, of desire, of resignation, of oblation, humiliation, of confidence, and the like. In whatever occupation you find yourself, you can very easily turn to God from time to time.” This could be done when you are walking home and you are awed by the beautiful sky, you could offer a short prayer praising God for the wonder and beauty of His creation. Or, if you see an ambulance speed pass you, you could pray a short prayer for the person in need of that ambulance. Share your day with Jesus, He really wants to hear from you!
In all, prayer is a response to God’s invitation to commune, and any place or time that encourages you to turn your gaze unto the Lord is a good place and time for prayer. Don’t worry if you struggle with prayer though, ask for the grace of perseverance and determination. Blessed John Henry Newman says that God “calls us again and again, in order to justify us again and again, — and again and again, and more and more, to sanctify us and glorify us.” Let us respond to God’s call to meet with us.
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