Catholic Prayer - Part 2
By: Allison Ramirez
St. Augustine said that “Prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours.” Last week, we introduced the topic of prayer, what it means in the words of saints, the catechism, and the importance of praying being both personal and communal. This week, we will look at some specific ways you can develop a solid prayer life as well as look at what the scriptures have to tell us about prayer.
If you would like to learn more about prayer in the scriptures, I would recommend beginning with the psalms. Most are written by King David and show us one’s authentic prayer to God both in times of supplication, thanksgiving, sorrow, fear. The psalms reveal to us the importance of telling God how we feel, what is on our hearts. Psalm 4:1 “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer.” But at the same time, Matthew 26:42 reveals to us how “Jesus went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to pass from me, not my will but yours.’” We are both to tell God what is on our hearts, while humbly accepting whatever his response is to us. This is the true challenge.
A big part of listening for God’s response in prayer is by spending time in quiet silence, or if we find this too distracting, by immersing ourselves in the scriptures. Often, when presented with complete silence, our minds find it easy to get distracted, but to meditate on something that is of God can help us put our minds to good work by encountering him in his word. Using scriptures to pray is a form of prayer that Church has been turning to for years which is called Lectio Divina which means “divine reading.” In this prayer, we follow the five-step processing of reading a scripture passage, meditating on its meaning and relevance to our lives, then talking to God about what that scripture brings to mind, then contemplating God’s presence with us, and finally making a small resolution of some positive, tangible action to take that way from our time in prayer. This way of praying can also be done with any religious reading (i.e. an autobiography of the saints, a book on prayer or another spiritual topic, a Catholic article or blog post, even a work of Christian fiction such as the Chronicles or Narnia or Lord of the Rings can be used for the aid of prayer.
We should also not neglect that our acts of service in the world (taking care of one’s children, spouse, or other relatives, being a considerate and hard worker, expressing gratitude over all of our gifts and blessings, volunteering, etc.) can all be offered as prayer to God if we realize that the good we do for others and the world at large is a good done for the Lord. Prayer is also taking part of the life of the church: going to mass each week, taking part in the sacraments and learning more about our faith can all be offered to God as prayer. Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton says of prayer: “We must pray without ceasing, in every occurrence and employment of our lives – that prayer which is rather a habit of lifting up the heart to God as in a constant communication with Him.” To prayer without ceasing is to be intentional about all that we do, to pause and offer up as many moments as we can God. “Thank you for this day that I am alive.” “Thank you for this food before me.” “I pray that all my words today would be words of love.” “I ask for strength during this difficult day.”
“Jesus, I love you.”