In my evangelical journey, I was always taught that Catholics were sub-Christians at best, with no real authentic relationship with God. They were hung up on religion/liturgy with no deep spiritual intimacy. When I started to do research friendship in history, I was delightfully surprised to find Catholics with intimate friendships with Christ and with intimate spiritual friendships.
If you know me at all, my journey into cross-gender friendships has included intimate prayer with and for my female friends and encouragement for others to taste and see that the Lord is good. Prayer, as Scot McKnight has said, is more intimate than sex. I have clearly come to see that prayer with our intimate loved ones is a foretaste of the beauty of God in the kingdom to come.
Recently, I was delightfully surprised to find a classic work on prayer by a seasoned Catholic, Thirsting for Prayer by Jacques Phillipe. I'm going to give you two quotes to ponder. Especially ponder them in praying with your opposite sex friends!
Prayer gives us a foretaste of heaven. It makes us glimpse and savor a happiness that is not of this world, and that nothing here below can give us: the happiness in God for which we are destined, for which we were created. Yes, we do encounter struggles, sufferings, and aridity in our prayer lives— and I’ll come back to this. But if we persevere faithfully in prayer, we taste from time to time an inexpressible happiness: a degree of peace and fulfillment that are a real foretaste of paradise. “You will see heaven opened,” Jesus has promised us ( Jn 1: 51). The first rule of the Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, founded in the Holy Land in the twelfth century, invites them to “meditate day and night on the law of the Lord,” with this aim: “To taste in a certain manner in our hearts, to experience in our minds the strength of the divine presence and the sweetness of the glory on high, not only after death but even in this mortal life.”
The marvel of it is that as we learn to be there with God alone, we learn by that very fact to be there for other people. People with a long-established prayer life possess a noticeable quality of attention, presence, listening, and availability, which people whose whole lives are given over to activity are often incapable of. Prayer gives rise to sensitivity, respect, and attention, precious gifts for those whom we encounter on our way. There is no more beautiful and effective school of attention to our neighbor than perseverance in prayer. It would make no sense to set prayer in opposition to or in conflict with love of neighbor.