|My friend Sarah and I with author Immaculee Iligabiza|
I've read a lot of books by saints, living and dead, who seem to have the ear of God. Their connection with the Divine is so palpable that each prayer they pray is answered with efficiency and, most of the time, miraculously. Try as I may, it never seems like my prayers are answered in that way. I know it is my lack of faith and not God's neglect, so I'm always on a search for a sort of formula for more success in prayer.
From the book Led by Faith by Immaculee Iligabiza, I may have discovered such a formula. This is the second book I've read by this author and I have also seen her speak. Immaculee has some of the most amazing stories of answered prayers, even when it seems impossible. The first step I discovered from her story is to believe that God exists and that He loves me. For Immaculee, this unshakable belief came out of her horrific experience during the Rwandan genocide where she actually, and miraculously, survived. The rest of her family and most of her friends were not spared, and yet she came away with a deep sense of God's existence and love for her and everyone else.
At the core of this belief in God came her desire to follow through with Jesus' admonition in the Lord's prayer to ask the Father to "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." So, the second step to effective prayer is forgiveness. While the genocide happened around Immaculee, she hid in a small bathroom for three months. During that time, she prayed the rosary over and over. Each time she came to the "Our Father", she would stumble over the forgiveness part until she was able to forgive the killers around her. She even forgave the people who killed her mother, father and brothers. It was an act of surrender on her part and God did the rest.
The last step I uncovered through Immaculee's story is to follow up prayer with action. For instance, after writing the transcript for her first book and bestseller, Left to Tell, she told the Lord that now He had to get it published because she had absolutely no idea how to go about doing that. Then she actively looked for the way God would answer that prayer. In other words, she made steps toward the request rather than waiting for the answer to fall from the sky (within three days she met the man who published her book).
Of course, there is a lot more to prayer than these three simple steps. one really ought to have a deeply personal relationship with God, spend quality time in talking to Him (prayer), keep focused on heaven and detach from things of earth, and unite joys, works, prayers and sufferings with Christ's suffering on the cross. That way, one's prayer requests are aimed to please God, not self. However, these are things I'd like to try to improve my prayer life because they seem to work for Immaculee!
Here's a recap:
1. Love God and know He loves you
2. Forgive everyone often and ask God to bless them
3. Follow prayer requests up with action
*I highly recommend Left to Tell by Immaculee Iligabiza. In my opinion every person in the world should read this book, however it is very explicit in it's description of the massive slaughter of a million people in Rwanda. The second book, Led by Faith, is not as good as the first, but it is still compelling and worth the read. It focuses more on Immaculee's life and faith in the years just after the genocide.