Last week we defined prayer as relationship. If our relationship with God is a love relationship (and it should be), then prayer is how we relate with our loved one.
When I was a little kid, my mother taught us that prayer was just talking. That's why I’m not so much into the standard prayers; the Hail Holy Queen, the Rosary; the Act of Contrition… I’d rather tell God that I am sorry in my own words. Imagine you had a friend whom you’ve hurt and need to apologize to. Do you ask someone else to write an apology and then you read it to them, or is it best to say it in your own words?
So often I get people telling me that they don’t pray because they don’t know how to pray. There isn’t a formula. Just talk to God. It doesn't matter what you say or how you say it. If you are angry, be angry. If you're upset or distracted, that's OK. All that matters is that you're talking and listening to God.
At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with those timeless prayers; the Memorare, the Magnificat or the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I personally love praying the Liturgy of the Hours and praying with the Psalms. People who prefer these prayers rather than using their own words say that it's not like they don't have their own words. It's that sometimes those prayers say it all so well. In the case of the Psalms, there’s a Psalm for every situation; joy (try Psalm 119 or Psalm 150), thanksgiving (Psalm 21 or Psalm 34) distress (Psalm 3 or Psalm 5), loneliness (Psalm 141 or Psalm 144), when you feel abandoned (Psalm 22 or Psalm 88), when you need God’s mercy and forgiveness (Psalm 51 or Psalm 123, when you want to praise (Psalm 8 or Psalm 30 are just a few examples).
Add to that the fact that the only way that a whole group of people can pray together, saying the same exact words is if we all read a pre-written prayer or we all recite a prayer that we’ve memorized. When done well, it's magical. Also in a moment of crisis, when I can't think of anything to say, it's good to know that I can say a "Hail Mary" without really having to think about it much.
When I was in university I went through a period of time when I found it really hard to pray with my own words. There was just too much going on and I kept telling myself that I could pray in the streetcar or in the shower, but it was just not happening. Then in acting class we were told to keep a journal. Every day we had to write something in our journal. It was amazing. This acting journal became my prayer journal. All my experiences of the day, good and bad, what I was thankful for, what I was worried about, everything went in my journal. And because I had to write it down, it meant that I had to slow down to think about my day. It was a great way to pray.
We should pray for everything and all the time. Praying is not just something that we do at bedtime or before we eat. It's not just something that we do in church. Praying is relationship. We share with our loving God everything about our lives. God loves to hear about our lives. He already knows all about it, but he loves to hear us tell him. He also loves to have us tell him what we want. Don't be afraid to ask God for anything, even if it's a silly little thing. Ask God to help you figure out what is important in your life. And thank God, bless God. So often we are so concerned with God blessing us, that we forget to bless him.
I guess the best example of how we should pray came from Jesus himself:
“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:7-15)
There are four types of prayer: Prayers of Praise, Contrition, Thanksgiving and Petition. We see these four in the Lord’s Prayer. When we pray, we should be conscious of not just asking for things; praise the name of Lord, be thankful and also ask for forgiveness.
Lastly, if prayer is how we relate to God and being with God in Heaven is our ultimate goal, then seek the Lord. Tell him you want to be with him. Ask him to help you get to him. In the end, it won’t matter how many Rosaries you prayed, but did you know Him?
Prayer is how you get to know Him.
Next week, let’s look at some practical ideas for starting your prayer group.
Image: Morning Prayers by Don Christner on Flickr.
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: firstname.lastname@example.org