Prayer is NOT "E.T. Phone Home"

For last Monday’s session, as we were focusing on the nearness of God, I began by showing a 5-minute clip of the movie E.T. (The Extra Terrestrial). The clip is the very beginning of the movie that shows how E.T. gets left behind on earth. Most of the kids had seen the movie before so, after a little trip back to their early childhood, I asked them to summarize the plot of the movie. Simply put, E.T. spends the rest of the movie trying to get the attention of his home planet (“E.T. phone home”) so that they will return and save him.

I used this to illustrate the mistaken notion that many of us have about our relationship with God. All too often, we have this impression that we are alone down here and God is way up there somewhere and that we need to get God’s attention by being good and by praying hard enough. I explained to the kids that prayer is not about us trying to get God’s attention, but is about us responding to God who is trying to get our attention! I used the phrase, “God is nearer to us than we are to ourselves” and asked the kids what that meant. One girl responded, “that means that He’s in our heart.” She got it right.

From there, I was able to explain why, when we pray, we try to remove distractions, quiet ourselves, and focus inward…because that is where God resides and that is where we encounter him.

We are not E.T. – struggling to get God’s attention so that he will “come down” and save us. We are temples of the Holy Spirit. Prayer is our attempt to enter into the temple of our hearts where God resides. It is there that we come to know God and ourselves.  

About Joe Paprocki 2646 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

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