Sometime in May of 2008, my deacon class had our canonical retreat at Loyola Retreat House in Faulkner, Maryland before our ordination on June 28, 2008.
Our retreat master, a Jesuit priest, made us sit in a circle: There were 18 chairs: 16 for us retreatants, 1 for him, and an empty one. The empty chair was supposed to be the seat of Jesus, a physical sign that was supposed to remind us of the presence of the Lord Jesus as our retreat master led us in reflection and prayer during those conferences. That extra chair gave us that feeling of our Lord's presence with us as we prepared our minds and hearts for that big event in our lives – our ordination as deacons.
Once I read a story about praying before an empty chair. A bedridden man was advised to put an empty chair beside his bed and imagine Jesus sitting there as he conversed with Him. He did that to pray for two hours a day. That practice helped him talk to Jesus. One day his daughter found him dead. His head was resting on that chair beside his bed. But there was something strange, in fact, weird or mysterious. Apparently, just before her father died, he leaned over and rested his head on that chair beside the bed.
In our parish, many people come to Mass daily early in the morning. Some of these are retired and do not have to go to a job. But all of them come for the same reason. It is to begin their day with the Mass, the greatest prayer of the Church. They come to pray, to converse with Him, and ask Him for help in living their lives.
Our Lord also prayed. One thing we will see in Jesus praying is the intimacy between Him and the Father, whom He calls "Abba," meaning "loving Father." "Jesus prayed at many other times: He started His ministry with 40 days of prayer in the desert, at the Passover meal, in the Garden, on the Cross.
Prayer is part and parcel of our Christian life. Scripture says that we must pray unceasingly, meaning: always. We may pray in our rooms, while driving to work, anywhere, anytime. We do not need an empty chair to pray.
When we are in church where the Blessed Sacrament is kept, we do not need an empty chair to help us to pray. For Christ Himself is there in the tabernacle, night and day. At Mass, He comes to us through the Word (the scripture readings) and at the Eucharist. Jesus made sure we would know His presence among us, with certainty, and we can always talk to Him like He talked to His Father."
Although it helps depending on where we are, we really do not need an empty chair to pray. #