Dan Rather once asked Mother Teresa what she said to God in prayer. She responded, “I don’t talk, I simply listen.”  So he turned the question around and asked, “Well then, what does God say?” Mother Teresa smiled and answered, “He also doesn’t talk.  He also simply listens.”
Most of us assume prayer works like a vending machine. When we have a need, we pray.  Then, after years of limited results, many of us have concluded that prayer doesn’t work. Sometimes we even doubt whether God is listening, cares about our circumstances, or even exists at all.
If we approach prayer like a drive-thru monitor at a fast food restaurant, it’s not surprising that we see God as distant and mechanical. But this is not the God that Jesus reveals. The Holy Scriptures paint God as near to us, even closer to us than our own breath. The overwhelming message of the Gospel is that “God is with us.” He is a God that is present in every moment, active in all things, and trustworthy to accomplish what he has promised for us.
So why doesn’t prayer work for most of us?
Maybe the problem isn’t so much prayer, as our approach to prayer. Are we so focused on the “presents” that God can give us, that we miss His “presence” in our lives?
What if we believed that God’s “presence” was ultimately the best “gift” we could receive? 
What if we believed that His “presence” alone could satisfy our needs and wants more than any other “present” He could offer?
In the Gospel of John, Jesus asks a Samaritan woman at a well to give him a drink. Shocked that Jesus would speak to her, since Jews have no dealings with Samaritans, she responds, “How can you ask me for a drink?”  
Jesus answered, “If you knew who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”  She replied, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?” 
And Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.  
The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
This is what Mother Teresa is pointing out. The presence of the Holy Spirit is a far greater blessing than anything else we could request in prayer. His presence is a like a spring of water welling up inside of us, satisfying the spiritual thirst we didn’t even know we had.
Most of us have unrecognized spiritual needs that are far greater than the physical needs we obsess over.  What would happen if we changed our prayers accordingly and ask for God’s “presence” rather than His “presents”?  He is already closer to us than our own breath; all we are missing is awareness.
Pr. Victor Peterson, Fairbury/Endicott UMC