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Catholic Prayer - Part 1

By: Allison Ramirez

For the next three weeks, I will be focusing on the topic of prayer. According to St. Therese of Lisieux, “Prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the fourth and final section is dedicated to Christian Prayer. Without prayer, we lack relationship with God. Without prayer, we are unable to both listen to and speak to God and turn to him in times of great need, great joy, and just those times of everyday ordinary living. Prayer is both talking and silence. Prayer is both reciting prescribed prayers such as The Our Father – Jesus’ response to the disciples when they ask: “Lord, how are we to pray?” – as well as offering organic, original words from the heart. In a sense, there is perhaps no “right” or “wrong” way to pray, but there is certainly “better” and “worse” ways to pray.

An important consideration I’d like to first offer is of the importance of prayer being both deeply personal as well as deeply communal. What I mean by this is that it is incomplete to have one without the other. For example, if I prioritize only what some might call a “personal relationship” with God in prayer –only coming to him with my needs, my wants, my life situation— then my prayer becomes just about me and God, or dare I say, only about me. In this way, one might also risk prayer becoming like a vending machine where I look at the options before me, pick which I like best, and type in the right numbers (i.e. say the right words or ask the right things) and the desired outcome will come to me in prayer.

Instead, while praying, we should want to develop a personal, unique relationship with God that is all our own, but we also want to acknowledge the vast history of our faith as being made up of the Body of Christ and the Communion of Saints. We are not alone on this walk of faith, and we have a duty to those around us, to care for and pray for the needs of our family, friends, neighbors, and the world at large. Thus, our prayer life should reflect a desire to grow personally closer to Jesus as well as a desire to grow closer to Jesus’ church that he founded and desires for us all to be a part of. “May they be one father, as you are in me, and I am in you” (John 17:21). This means viewing prayer not as a vending machine where we always get what we want, but as an opportunity for true transformation in the way we think, in the way we speak, and in the way we act. We should not pray expecting that our prayer will change what’s around us or what’s happening or not happening to us. Indeed, sometimes prayer will do that, but regardless, prayer is always an opportunity to encounter Christ and to be positively changed interiorly, even if our exterior circumstances remain the same. Again, prayer is always about relationship which requires give-and-take, sacrifice, and acceptance.

So how then are we to pray? The tradition of the Church offers us many ways, from silent meditation, to devotional or scripture reading, to praying aloud with others, to taking a walk in nature and offering God what is on our heart. In the next two weeks, I’ll be offering you more specific ways to pray, but for today, I invite you to pick a specific moment (it can be one moment or multiple moments) that you will consciously pause and offer a sentence to God in. This can be every time you are about to get in the car, every time you go to get the mail, every time you brush your teeth. Whatever the specific moment(s) you choose, offer your prayer sentence as such: Jesus, I love you, Holy Spirit Strengthen, Me, God I’m grateful, etc, and pay attention to how these small moments change you.

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