By Mary Johnson
What is prayer? When I first agreed to do a talk for the Beautiful Basics of our Catholic Faith, I thought no problem. That will be easy. Everyone knows what prayer is; it's just talking to God. That's correct but there is so much more to it than that.
I always like to do a little research so of course I googled Catholic prayer. Not too sure what I'd get, but I got hundreds of hits including one that said, "here are 3,000 Catholic prayers." Not exactly a definition of prayer, however. I went to Wikipedia, and it was a little more informative. Here's what they had to say, "Catholic prayer is the raising of one's mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God." That was a little better, but I knew it was time to go to the Catechism. The definition I received there said "Prayer is the raising of the minds and hearts to God in Adoration, Thanksgiving, Contrition and supplication. We pray to praise God, to Thank Him, to say I'm sorry and to ask for things."
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton said to pray without ceasing. To pray in every occurrence......it is a habit of lifting the heart to God as in a constant communication with Him.
St. Theresa of Lisieux said this: "For me, prayer is a surge of the heart: it's a simple look turned toward Heaven, it is a cry of recognition and love embracing both trial and joy." Both trials and joy!
In a real world of course, we must do many things with our time. We are all busy. But it is important that we set aside time to talk to God.
By choosing to pray at a particular time every day we can develop a habit of prayer, this can make prayer an indispensable part of our daily life. Think of all the things we do out of habit. We can all find some time in the morning to say, "good morning Jesus, be with me today in all I do and say" and at night "Good night Jesus, I'm sorry for the times today when I failed. Thank you for being with me and loving me even when I least deserve it.
Prayers can be long or short memorized or spontaneous. One of the shortest prayers we have is Amen. We tend to think of it as just the way we end prayers, but Amen itself is a prayer. When we receive the Eucharist we say Amen," I believe". "This is truly The Body and Blood of our dear Savior Jesus Christ. "We will be covering the Holy Eucharist in a future talk.
The old saying that we have 2 ears for listening and 1 mouth for speaking can remind us that at times when we go to prayer we need to listen. "Be still and know that I am God" Psalm 46:10. There is so much noise in this world. Take the time to open your mind and heart to God.
Prayer is talking to God. He is our Heavenly Father who loves us beyond measure, who is always there for us. He wants us to come to Him in all things. You don't ever have to enter a PIN or a password wait in line. He's there waiting for us.
Pope Frances, when stressing the importance of prayer said, "he who does not pray to the Lord is praying to the devil."
One of the most familiar prayers is the Our Father. This is a prayer that covers it all and it was given to us by Jesus when His Disciples asked him "Lord how should we pray?"
A short prayer that we may take for granted is the Sign of the Cross. We think of it as something we do at the beginning and end of a prayer. It is so much more than that. In the name of The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit Amen. What did I just do? I made a Cross on my body. In doing so we acknowledge the Trinity, three persons in one God. We remember that Jesus died on the cross for us.
When we were Baptized the cross was made on our foreheads not just by the Priest but by our parents and Godparents. Don't be afraid to make the sign of the Cross in public. Jesus died for us in public we shouldn't only pray to Him in private. I'm not saying we should be very showy or obvious in our prayers. A lot of sports figures will make the sign of the cross before a play. But what about if we made the sign of the Cross whenever we see an ambulance or firetruck go by? Or a car crash? Or even when we go by a cemetery. God have mercy on their souls. If we go by a school or playground, ask for their health and protection.
Every day, throughout the day we should pray. If someone tells you they are going through some medical problems, or financial difficulties or relationship issues, it's easy to say I' II pray for you. But try to find a way to remind yourself to pray for them. Every time you think of that person offer a prayer for them. I use post-it's a lot, with what or who I want to remember in prayer throughout the day. Then the post-it goes to my prayer book at the end of the day so I can continue to pray for them.
Of course, the greatest prayer of all is the celebration of the Mass. We are witness to the consecration of the bread and wine, to become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This is an amazing gift that we witness every time we go to Mass.
As Catholics we say prayers to the Blessed Virgin Mary, but we ask for her intercession, to make our case to her Son Jesus on our behalf. She wants to be a Mother to us. Ask "Mother Mary, be a mother to me now." "Mother Mary intercede for me in my request."
We offer prayers to many saints but again we are asking them to intercede for us. As Catholics we have a Saint for everything, remember "Tony, Tony look around, something's lost and must be found. Those of you who are old enough to remember that's a child's version of a prayer to St. Anthony!
Also, we are all given a guardian angel to be with us, don't forget to say good morning and good night to them.
God is not like a genie in a bottle to grant our every wish. In the book of Matthew Jesus tells His followers "Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him" Notice the distinction between what we need and what we want. Father Mike Schmidt of the Bible in a year fame says, "I know what God wants but I want what I want."
Do we stop praying when we feel God has not answered our prayers? No, we keep praying; we trust that God has a plan for us, that always He knows what we NEED.
There was an old woman sitting outside her house sewing on a large piece of cloth, Martha. Every day when Mary walked to work, she saw this woman doing her handiwork. This went on for some time and Mary was curious, so she stopped to see what Martha was doing.
Mary felt sorry for the old woman, all she could see was a jumble of threads and knots seemingly random colors. Perhaps her eyesight isn't as good as it used to be. Martha said to her "things are not always as they seem" This went on for some time and finally Martha beckoned Mary over and said, "would you like to see what I have made?" As Mary walked over towards her the woman picked up the needlework and turned it over. All the beautiful colors of thread created a beautiful tapestry with many fine details. Beautiful landscapes and flowers, rivers and streams, animals of every kind. With a twinkle in her eyes Martha said, sometimes people say, "Things are not always what they seem."
Things are not always what they seem for us either, so we continue to pray and trust. If we don't pray our spiritual soul becomes dry and we start to feel less connected to God. Sometimes people say I just feel like God is so far away, I just don't feel close to God. Some days God is so far away that I don't even pray.
Another story but a short one. A couple who had been married for many years were having a disagreement as they were driving down the road. I don't even know what it was about. Soon, they met a car that had a young couple sitting together. I mean really together. The woman turned to her husband and said, "that used to be us." The husband looked at her and said, "I haven't moved "This is not to place blame on anyone but to remind us that we need to go to God, He is always there waiting for us. He never moves away from us.
So how much should we pray? That's a tough question. When the Trappist Monk Thomas Merton was asked for his best advice on how to improve our pray lives, his answer was very simple. He said, "Take the time."
Every day we are given 1440 minutes. How many can we promise to God? Even 10 minutes each morning and evening can't be too much. That would still give us 1420 minutes for our busy lives. We can start by remembering the simple formula from our Catechism:
Adoration (think of all the beautiful hymns of praise and worship.)
C contrition my God I am sorry for all my sins
T Thanksgiving What if tomorrow morning you only woke up with the things you thanked God for today?
S supplication asking God for His help
A good prayer to repeat to yourself often is to ask God to help put our lives in perfect alignment with His will. Thy will be done.
We can and should make every moment of our life a moment of prayer; we dedicate everything we do to God, and we ask Him to sanctify everything we do. We are busy.
A busy life makes prayer harder but praying makes a busy life easier.
Please pray for me, I'll be praying for you.
Pamphlets in the back of the church "Powerful prayers every Catholic should know."