“Livin’ on a Prayer: Why Pray and How to?”

Culture of Speed and Noise:

  • Internet (and TV/Radio/Media) makes practically an infinite amount of content available all at once.

  • This instant ability to change what I’m viewing, etc. can make contemplation and quiet reflection difficult.

  • No one really “meditates” on a website, TV show, radio station, etc.

  • The ability to quiet oneself, reflect, and begin to contemplate things beyond our immediate senses is very helpful for prayer

What is Prayer?

  • Everyone has heard of prayer and has at least a vague idea of what it is

  • Some see it as bargaining with God or a “Higher Power.”

  • Simply put, prayer is “conversation with God”

Humility:

  • Humility is the foundation of all prayer.

  • Gospel story of the Pharisee and the Publican (tax collector) in the temple:

 

“Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ 14I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” ~ LUKE 18:10-14

  • The lesson is that in order to pray (and in fact, in order to have any true communication with anyone), one must TRULY WANT to hear what the other will say.

  • I can’t receive in a “give and take” relationship if I’m so full of pride that I just want to talk, but won’t listen.  It’s only when, in true humility, I empty myself, that I can be filled.

Prayer Builds a Relationship:

  • Just like a relationship with a boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse, or close friend.

  • People in a close relationship need to spend time with each other regularly or they will drift apart.

  • Prayer is that consistent conversation, that “quality time,” that makes us grow closer to God rather than further apart.

  • It is intimate dialogue with God, conversation that can often defy words.

Spiritual Childhood:

  • Prayer springs from our true relationship with God.  Through baptism, we are made children of God.

  • We become children of God the Father.

  • Importance of approaching prayer as loving dialogue between ourselves as children and our infinitely loving Father, God.

  • Seeing ourselves as children takes humility and makes our prayer more real and effective.

Love is Deeds, Not Sweet Words:

  • Prayer is spending time with God.

  • But–just as no marriage or friendship is just talk–praying well will always lead us to want to change our lives outside of our prayer time.

  • And changing our lives, will always make us pray better.

  • We pray because we love God and want to spend time with him.

  • This growing love will drive us to want to please Him throughout the day…true prayer will always be a call to action.

Kinds of Prayer:

  • Petition: Asking Our Lord for help, for graces, for something good to happen, or to avoid some evil.

  • Repentance: Being sorry for our offences against God and asking for forgiveness and reconciliation.  Esp. in the Sacrament of Confession/Reconciliation.  Also, important to conduct a quick (1 min) Examination of Conscience each night and make a resolution on how to change the next day.  Then ask for forgiveness (could make an “Act of Contrition”)

  • Thanksgiving: Just as important as asking help from God is to thank Him for the good things He gives us.  Story of the 10 lepers (only one came back to thank Our Lord).Also, important to spend some time (even if just a minute or two) to thank Our Lord for the gift of receiving Him in the Eucharist at Mass.

  • Adoration: Time spent simply adoring God’s infinite glory, love, divinity, and so on.  This is a more mystical kind of prayer…one often more of wordless contemplation, rather than dialogue.  Important to take time before the Blessed Sacrament to adore Our Lord in the Eucharist.  Could also become inspired in the beauty of creation to adore God.

  • Also – Vocal prayers (Our Father, Hail Mary), Mental Prayer (private conversation with God in your own words), Communal prayer, including Liturgical prayer.

The Holy Mass: Root and Center of the Interior Life:

  • All the saints have pointed to their life in the Eucharist as the true “engine” of all their prayers.

  • The Eucharist is food for the soul–if not regularly and worthily received, the soul starves and prayer is nearly impossible.

  • Important to avoid approaching the alter to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist if conscious of any serious sin.  A good confession will put us right again and ready to receive Him.

PRACTICAL POINTS:

Quiet Place:

  • For Mental Prayer, a quiet place is much preferred (and usually required).  At the very least, one must be relatively free from interruption.

  • Prayer is easiest in a quiet place that is before the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle or Exposed for Adoration.

Bring a Book:

  • Even the greatest of saints and the most experienced at prayer will generally have a good spiritual book with them to help their prayer.

  • It can even be helpful (and maybe even necessary for the beginner) to spend about half the time of prayer reading a good book that leads to prayerful contemplation.

Necessity of Routine:

  • Need a consistent, planned time for prayer – 7:00 am each weekday morning; 5:30pm each evening; etc.

  • Best to pick a time that we will be alert enough to give our attention to the task.  Avoid early mornings or late nights if either is a time that one becomes very sleepy.

  • Make it part of the routine: like getting up at a certain time or having meals at a certain time.

Prayer on the Commute:

  • If it’s hard to fit prayer into your daily routine right away, consider praying on your commute.

  •  Instead of using a good spiritual book to help you, download a good homily or book on tape.

  • There are hundreds of good audio files available for free.  For starters, try the homilies from St. John the Beloved parish in Northern Virginia. Fr. Scalia and Fr. McAfee. – http://tallguyav.com/stjhomilies/ Also, Audio Sancto: http://www.audiosancto.org/

Presence of God:

  • Prayer without ceasing. 

  • Work/study as prayer.  Offering to God our whole day–everything we do–every joy, suffering, work, prayer. 

  • Importance of a morning offering and aspirations throughout the day.

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,

I offer you my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day

For all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart,

In union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world,

In thanksgiving for Your favors,

In reparation for my sins,

For the intentions of all my relatives and friends and,

In particular, for the intentions of the Holy Father. Amen.

The Rich Get Richer:

  • Like any other action, prayer becomes easier with practice.

  • Good habits of prayer make the seemingly impossible much more within grasp.

  • Once our love for God drives us to live better lives, all the good things we do throughout the day will make our times of prayer much easier and more alive.

  • Frequenting the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation will also help.  Of course, staying out of moral sin (and returning to the state of grace quickly if fallen) will make prayer easier!

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