How do we develop a strong prayer life and does it really make a difference? What are the different prayer forms?
“Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer each day, except when we are busy, then we need an hour.”…St Francis de Sales. At Mass when the reading of the Gospel begins, we place the sign of the cross on our foreheads, lips, and hearts and pray, “May the Lord be in our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts.” Lips, minds and hearts—these symbolize 3 kinds of prayer: vocal, meditative, and contemplative. These modes of prayer include formal and informal paths, personal and communal expressions, popular piety, and the liturgical prayer of the Church.
Vocal prayer, founded on the union of body and soul in human nature, associates the body with the interior prayer of the heart, following Christ’s example of praying to His Father and teaching the Our Father to His disciples.
In meditative prayer, we use our minds to ponder the will of God in His plan for our lives. What doe God ask of us—aids for this are in Scripture, the holy Gospels, holy icons, liturgical texts of the day, and writings of the Spiritual Fathers and Mothers. Varied methods include Lectio Divina of St Benedict, the radical simplicity of Franciscan spirituality and the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire.
Contemplative prayer involves hearing and obeying God’s Word. It is a time of silent listening and love. Emptying oneself not for its own sake, but for the sake of being filled with God and entering into a deeper relationship with Him.
1. Eph 6:18.
With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones.
2. Phil 4:6.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with Thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.
3. 1Thes 5:17-18.
Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thank, for all is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
4. 1Jn 5:14.
And we have this confidence in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
5. Mt 7:7
Ask and it will be given to you; 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 the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish. If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask Him.
1. Paragraph 2707
There are as many and varied methods of meditation as there are spiritual masters. Christians owe it to themselves to develop the desire to meditate regularly, lest they come to resemble the three first kinds of soil in the parable of the sower.5 But a method is only a guide; the important thing is to advance, with the Holy Spirit, along the one way of prayer: Christ Jesus.
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Contemplative prayer is the simple expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gaze of faith fixed on Jesus, an attentiveness to the Word of God, a silent love. It achieves real union with the prayer of Christ to the extent that it makes us share in his mystery.
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“You would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”9 Paradoxically our prayer of petition is a response to the plea of the living God: “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water!”10 Prayer is the response of faith to the free promise of salvation and also a response of love to the thirst of the only Son of God.11
Small Group Questions
1. Where do you pray? Are there any limits?
2. Is prayer just about asking God for something?
3. Are our prayers answered? How would we know? Do we recognize that is God’s will be done and not ours?
4. Do we incorporate in our prayers gratitude and thankfulness to God?
5. How have you maintained a bond between prayer and an active Christian mission to others?
1. “I Shall Keep the Silence of My Heart” Mother Teresa I don’t think there is anyone who needs God’s help and grace as much as I do. SometimesI feel so helpless and so weak I think this is why God uses me. Because I cannot depend on my own strength. I rely on Him 24 hours a day. All of us must cling to God through prayer. My secret is simple. I pray. Through prayer I become one in love with Christ. I realize that praying to Him is loving Him we cannot find God in noise or agitation. Nature, trees, flowers and grass grow in silence. The stars, the moon, and the sun move in silence. He speaks to our souls. In silence we are granted the privilege of listening ti His voice….Silence of our eyes. Silence of our ears. Silence of our minds…..in the silence of the heart God will speak.
2. Mother Teresa……And when times come when we can’t pray, it is very simple; if Jesus is in my heart, let Him pray, let me allow Him to pray in me, to talk to His Father in the silence of my heart. Since I cannot speak—He will speak; since I cannot pray—He will pray.
3. Gandhi……I believe that prayer is the very soul and essence of religion, and therefore prayer must be the very core of this life of humanity, for no one can live without religion.
4. Gandhi……There is really only one prayer that we may offer, “Thy will be done.”
5. Madeleine Delbrel……Silence is the place where the Word of God dwells. We, the ordinary people of the streets, do not see solitude as the absence of the world, but as the presence of God.
6. Catherine de Hueck Doherty……God has given this day into our hands. This is the day in which we pray, but we pray by action and sweat, just as Christ did. He said He “came not to be served but to serve.” (Mt 20:28) He also said “Pray continually (Lk 18:1). Pray while you work and work while you pray.
7. Howard Thurman……First, we must learn to be quiet, to settle down in one spot for a spell. Sometime during each day, everything should stop and the art of being still must be practiced.
8. Cardinal Newman’s Prayer to Christ…… Lord Jesus, conceal Thyself not within me thus! Look, thou through my eyes, hear by my ears, speak by my mouth, walk with my feet! Lord may my poor human presence recall, at least distantly, thy divine presence.
9. Henri Nouwen…… Prayer is entering into communion with the one who molded our being in our mother’s womb with love and only love. There in that first love lies our true self, a self not made up of rejections and acceptances of those with whom we live, but solidly rooted in the one who called us into existence. In the house of God we were created. To that house we are called to return. Prayer is the act of returning…the act of prayer is the basis and source of all actions.
1. Do some spiritual reading, it can invest your prayers with new meanings.
2. Find that quiet time in your day, anywhere and pray. Find that space in your home, your workplace, in Nature, where you can “be still” and practice.
3. Silence is prayer.
4. Don’t expect visions or voices in response to prayer, God works in many ways. The vision could simply be the sunset.
5. DARE to pray
6. Do it every day
7. Ask where you need to be changed
8. Respond to what God is asking you
9. Expect great things
Humbly with the support and readings of many spiritual fathers and mothers before me, Charles Pfizenmayer