Last Saturday, I was on the road early out of Cheyenne headed for Casper. It was a crisp, clear, cool morning, and the Laramie Range to the west was in full display, covered from top to bottom with the first fresh snowfall of the season. I was on my way to celebrate Mass with the Bishop’s Guild, and later join them for brunch. My topic for the morning’s presentation was prayer. After that visit, I returned to Cheyenne to give a similar reflection to a gathering that night at the Knights of Columbus.
Below are some of my notes, fleshed out with a few additional thoughts.
PRIMARY REASON TO PRAY: Remember that Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them how to pray. We want to do the same thing. Prayer is conversation with God. We are created by God, created in His image and likeness. We are created for sharing in the Divine Life, which is granted us through Jesus Christ and the gift of His Holy Spirit. The goal of prayer then is simply to grow in holiness of life which is to grow in relationship with the Trinity. This requires continual conversion. To pray is to develop relationships with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
In Baptism we are brought into this Divine Life. The rest of our life is to be a cooperation with the will of God, the Grace of Jesus Christ, and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the need for regular conversation with God; prayer. We know from our human relationships that it is not possible to be in any relationship without honest conversation. The same holds true in our relationship with God.
Various Forms of Prayer:
- Blessing & Adoration (CCC 2626 – 2628) Think of the times your own heart has been moved and your soul stirred by a sunrise or sunset, a powerful storm, the bugle of an elk, the color of a rainbow trout or the quick and poetic movement of a hummingbird. Creation and all creatures naturally lead us to the Creator, which leads to adoration and blessing the Creator for all of his many wonders.
- Prayer of Petition (CCC 2629 – 2633) Who of us has not gone to God with our list of needs, concerns, requests for his assistance?
- Prayer of Intercession (CCC 2634 – 2636) How many of us have had the experience of others asking us to pray for them?
- Prayer of Thanksgiving (CCC 2637 – 2638) This form of prayer is critical. We need more gratitude in our life, and we need to be able to express our Thanks to God for his Providence and Goodness.
- Prayer of Praise (CCC 2639 – 2643) For me, this prayer is slightly different from the first form of Blessing and Adoration. This prayer naturally arises from the prayer of thanksgiving. This is to allow one’s heart to sing to God; to not pass over lightly the simple and the great ways we recognize God’s presence and action in our life. This form of prayer allows the soul to sing to God with all the joy of one’s heart for the many things that God has done for us.
Three Movements of Prayer:
Before you pray, make an act of faith: Lord, no matter what happens during this time of prayer, I believe that you are present and active, that you love me and are always leading me and speaking to the depths of my being.
- Vocal Prayer (God speaks to us in Scripture – we are to speak to Him) For example, recently I went to the chapel to pray. There was a strong temptation to get up and go call a friend and tell them what had just happened. I quickly realized, this is how I was to talk to God in this moment!
- Meditation: (Reflect upon the Word of God) In this phase, we simply read God’s Word. I generally pray with the readings for the Mass of the day. Slowly read the Scripture, being attentive to what captures your heart and mind. What word or phrase speaks to you most? It is best to read the Scripture as God or Jesus speaking directly to you, not as you would just read any story as a bystander who is observing. We are active participants in this story of salvation – and God speaks to us through his Word, which is alive! Set the Scripture aside and let it sink in, then read it attentively again. Engage the Word.
- Contemplation: (Free your heart and mind to simply contemplate God) Here is where prayer moves from the head to the heart. This is the moment to free yourself from all distractions and thoughts to simply be present to God. Be mindful of the loving gaze of Jesus, and give him your loving attention.
Ephesians 6:18 “pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.”
1 Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray without ceasing.” Prayer is more than our formal prayer and words. Praying constantly is a desire and a conscious effort to live in the presence of God in all that we do.
Luke 11: 1 The Lord’s Prayer
Luke 11: 9-10 “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
John 14: 13-14: “And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.” I really like this particular instruction of Jesus. I find myself invoking his name more and more, in each decision that I take, at the beginning of the day in anticipation of the many people and activities that lie ahead, and at the end of the day, asking that the Lord bless the work of my hands that they may bear good fruit.
The Role of the Holy Spirit: Cultivate your relationship with and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.
Just this week, I was given the grace to ask the Holy Spirit to guard my thoughts as I prepared for Mass. I at the same time asked the Blessed Mother to intercede for me, specifically asking her to take me to the heart of her Son as I prepared to celebrate Mass. Not only was the grace given to ask for such a special request, but the request made in faith (and obedience) was granted. This shall now be a regular practice on my part.
Devotion to the Blessed Mother: Where would I be without her Motherly aid and intercession?!
Celebration of the Eucharist & Reception of the Blessed Sacrament & Eucharistic Adoration: The Eucharist is our highest form of prayer. What a gift we have in being able to celebrate, receive and adore the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
Liturgy of the Hours:
Goal of Prayer:
- Seek the Face of God (psalm 127)
- Seek the Will of God
- Conversation with God
Desire to be holy. Desire to serve the LORD. Desire to know the Lord.
Sometime, we must ‘set aside’ what my conception of what prayer is, or what prayer should ‘feel like’ and realize that what is most important is what God desires and what God is ‘up to’ through prayer.
- Ask for grace not instruction
- Seek ‘Desire’ not understanding
- Practice The groaning of prayer, not diligent reading
- Seek The Spouse not the teacher
- Seek God not man
- Ask for Darkness not clarity
- Desire Not light but the Fire, That totally enflames and carries us into God, By ecstatic unctions and burning affections. This fire is God, And Christ enkindles it, In the heat of his burning passion.
St. Teresa of Avila said that the only remedy for failing to pray is to begin to pray again! So my friends, “Let us pray …”
I will close with one of my favorite Scripture passages from Psalm 37:
“Trust in the Lord, and he will act.”