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Pope John Paul II indicates that people
sometimes say they don't know how to pray. "How to pray? This is a
simple matter. I would say: Pray any way you like, so long as you
do pray." You can pray the way your mother taught you; you can use
a prayer book. Sometimes it takes courage to pray; but it is possible
to pray, and necessary to pray. Whether from memory or a book or just
in thought, it is all the same. See,
John Paul II, The Way of Prayer, Crossroad Publishing Co.
(1995). See also The Necessity of Prayer, by St.
16. The Catechism of the Catholic Church
has an extensive section on prayer. It can not be said that the
Catechism has been a classic for centuries but it draws on centuries of
teaching and prayer. At the official Vatican site, there is a table of contents and an extensive index.
From the Russian Orthodox tradition: The Way
of the Pilgrim, which describes how to satisfy St. Paul's command
to pray constantly using the Jesus Prayer. For an excerpt see Pray without Ceasing. Search for
The Way of the Pilgrim at Amazon.com.
From the ancient eastern desert hermits and
monks there are the Sayings of the Desert Fathers. For example, Abbe Xanthios said, "A dog is better than I
am, for he has love and he does not judge." Also St. John of the Ladder
said, "Do not be surprised that you fall every day; do not give up, but
stand your ground courageously. And assuredly, the angel who guards you
will honor your patience." This saying is found in the Sayings of the Fathers. For a
good commercial text see the compilation by Merton
called the Wisdom of the Desert. Finally there are Stories from the Desert Fathers at Seeking God.
Be sure to look at the texts that are on-line
at Christian Classics Electronic Library. There are a number of interesting texts, such as Dante,
Milton, and G. K. Chesterton in addition to other protestant and
We can ask any person in heaven, any saint,
to join us in prayer.
This includes our relatives who have gone
We do not pray to the saints in the sense that
they have any power of their own. We ask them to pray with us to God,
just as I can ask you to pray with me to God. We do assume that they
can hear us, and, because they are with God, and lived very good holy
lives, we feel their prayers joined to ours will be powerful. God would
be inclined to listen to such good people who are close to him.
However, we do not think it is necessary or essential to pray to
saints. Our one mediator is Jesus who is the bridge between us and God.
He is really the essential conduit. However, we venerate saints, which is not to say that we give them adoration or
honor due to God alone. It means we honor them as people who
successfully cooperated with God's grace in this life and are among the
great cloud of witnesses in heaven. [See sec. 2683
of the catechism.]They succeeded in Christian life. They say to us that
we can succeed too if we persevere. They are fully totally human and
their lives give us hope for ourselves, that we too in our own time and
place can do God's will successfully.
"828 By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly
pro claiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to
God's grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness
within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints
to them as models and intercessors. 'The saints have always been the
source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the
Church's history.' Indeed, 'holiness is the hidden source and
infallible measure of her apostolic activity and missionary zeal.'" See
also the communion of saints.
956. "The intercession of the SAINTS. 'Being more closely
united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more
firmly in holiness.... They do not cease to intercede with the Father
for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through
the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus.... So by their
fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.'[LG 49; cf. 1 Tim
2:5 NAB; NCE.]
Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death
and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life.[St.
Dominic, dying, to his brothers.]
I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth.[St. Therese
of Lisieux, The Final Conversations, tr. John Clarke (Washington: ICS,
1977), 102.]" Communion of Heaven and Earth.
"1192 Sacred images in our churches and homes are intended to
awaken and nourish our faith in the mystery of Christ. Through the icon
of Christ and his works of salvation, it is he whom we adore. Through
sacred images of the holy Mother of God, of the angels and of the
saints, we venerate the persons represented." See Catholic Teaching on Relgious Art.
To encourage veneration of the saints the church grants a partial indulgence if we pray the oration
(the opening prayer) given in the missal for the feast day of the
saint, or any other officially approved prayer invoking the saint. The
prayer must be said on the feast day.
the Orthodox Church throughout this site on prayer.
Some Catholics may wonder at this but should realize that we were
united for the first thousand years of Christianity and they are
"Sister Churches". In the recent document Dominus Jesus the vatican said: "The
Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the
Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds,
that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true
particular Churches. Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and
operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion
with the Catholic Church..."
And the Second Vatican Council taught: "Catholics
therefore are earnestly recommended to avail themselves of the
spiritual riches of the Eastern Fathers which lift up the whole man to
the contemplation of the divine.
The very rich liturgical and spiritual heritage of the
Eastern Churches should be known, venerated, preserved and cherished by
all. They must recognize that this is of supreme importance for the
faithful preservation of the fullness of Christian tradition, and for
bringing about reconciliation between Eastern and Western Christians."]
For a short simple introduction to various
styles of prayer each developed and used successfully by saints, look
for Lost In God by Terry Matz, published by Ligouri.
Click on the Icon for more on saints.
Breathing and Mindfulness.
We can be distracted, anxious, fearful,
depressed, or angry when we come to prayer. These things are not very
helpful. The problem comes from not paying attention to what our mind
is doing. We can move away from these feelings and the thoughts that
create them by coming into the present moment, by directing and
focusing our attention on what we are doing right now, in this moment
of life. Mindfullness is an effort to gain control of our attention and
direct it constructively. For example, we can say a tradional prayer,
like the Our Father, thoughtfully and mindful of what we are saying, or
just say the words by rote, "automatically" while the mind wanders. God
does know whether or not you mean the words you are saying. How would
you react to someone who is "just going through the motions"?
From the Buddhist tradition, the art
of focused breathing and meditation through mindfulness is described in
The Miracle of Mindfulness, a Manual on Meditation, by Thich Nhat Hanh, a
Vietnamese monk living now in France. It is published by Beacon Press.
The methods he describes can be very useful, as a prelude to more
traditional Catholic prayer by getting rid of distractions, removing
tension, and focusing our attention on God. (This would be especially
helpful for meditation, and contemplation. See the
section below on getting started which gives a brief description of how to use controlled
Another text by Thich Nhat Hanh,Peace is Every Step,
published by Bantam Books, teaches the use of conscious
breathing, and mindfulness of the present moment, as a way to find
peace in each moment of life, to become peace, and thus sow peace. (Recall that peace is a fruit of the Holy
Spirit, Galatians 5:22, and a mind controlled by the Holy Spirit is
life and peace, Romans 8:6.) If you are
interested in Thich Nhat Hanh, more about him can be found at at Plum Village and Parallax Press. Remember
that for Christian prayer controlled breathing and mindfulness are not
ends unto themselves, but are optional methods to gain control of the
mind and emotions, and help us to focus on God. It is a way to remove
distractions, and "center" ourselves, to relieve anxiety and become
aware of the present moment wherein we can meet God.
As you concentrate first on your breathing,
you let go of thoughts and fears. As you become aware of this present
moment allow your awareness to take in what you are experiencing around
you, the sights and sounds of life that you were ignoring. Then realize
that it is God who gives you breath, who provides the sun light, or
rain; it is his love that has made you and all that is around you.
You can rest in Him for a time, or begin your
conversation. (Being Peace may be helpful.)
From a medical perspective, Herbert
Benson, MD., of the Harvard Medical School, encourages this as a Relaxation Response to stress. (Eighty percent of his patients
chose prayer as the way to elicit the relaxation response. Benson, Relaxation
Response, p. 21.) Johns Hopkins also recommends it for stress reduction.
For those concerned about using controlled
breathing in meditation, recall the scriptural symbolism of breath and
1. God breathed into man the "breath of life".
2. God's prophet prophesied and the breath of
life and God's spirit came into dead dry bones. Ezek. 37:4-14 [especially verse 9].
4. At the descent of the Holy Spirit on the
Apostles, there was the sound of a great wind. Acts 2:2. See also, John 3:8, and footnote 4.
Thus when you consciously breath, you can
envision God giving you the breath of life. Let it be the Holy Spirit
coming into to you to fill you and remake you as it did the Apostles.
See, Prayer and Blessing, a method, from the Anglican Communion.
"The term 'SPIRIT' translates the Hebrew word
ruah, which, in its primary sense, means breath, air, WIND. Jesus
indeed uses the sensory image of the WIND to suggest to Nicodemus the
transcendent newness of him who is personally God's breath, the divine
SPIRIT. [John 3:8]" Catechism of the Catholic
Church, sec. 691.
"We must remember God more often than we draw
breath." St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Catechism of the Catholic Church, sec.
God at least as often as we draw breath, as a start.
The some teachers in the eastern Orthocox tradition joined breath with
the Jesus prayer in an effort to pray constantly, although they suggest
caution as well.
"Breathing. Bishop Kallistos Ware says
that if we pray the Jesus Prayer for short periods, ten or fifteen
minutes at the beginning, then there is no problem matching the words
of the prayer to our breath. We are to breath naturally, without
playing with the rhythm of the breath. On the inhale, we can say, "Lord
Jesus Christ, Son of God." On the exhale, we can say, "have mercy on
me, a sinner." We are to breath and pray slowly and reverently and
attentively. " See Rossi's article on the Jesus
Pope JohnPaul II mentions this in his document
on the Rosary. "Sacraments and sacramentals are structured as a series
of rites which bring into play all the dimensions of the person. The
same applies to non-liturgical prayer. This is confirmed by the fact
that, in the East, the most characteristic prayer of Christological
meditation, centred on the words "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have
mercy on me, a sinner" is traditionally linked to the rhythm of
breathing; while this practice favours perseverance in the prayer, it
also in some way embodies the desire for Christ to become the breath,
the soul and the "all" of one's life."
As to living in the present moment, and not
worrying about the future, or desiring peace, these are very Christian
ideals. Jesus says not to worry about tomorrow; each day has enough
trouble of its own. Matt. 6:34. Jesus also said he wanted to give us peace and teaches
we should not let our hearts be troubled. John 14:27. Yet many people do not feel peace. Perhaps we block
this gift that Jesus wishes to give. Perhaps what is needed is to want
the gift, pray for the gift, and to try to receive the gift. (cf. Rom 14:10;
1Pet. 3:1 NIV or see generally
what the new testament says on peace.) See, Being Peace.
(Catholics may wish to consult the recent
Vatican document on New Age issues. It says: "Christian prayer is not an exercise in
self-contemplation, stillness and self-emptying, but a dialogue of
love, one which "implies an attitude of conversion, a flight from
'self' to the 'You' of God". It leads to an increasingly complete
surrender to God's will, whereby we are invited to a deep, genuine
solidarity with our brothers and sisters.")
If you feel uncomfortable learning from a Buddhist monk, remember
that the Second Vatican Council opened the door to cooperation with
non-Catholic people, including non-christians. Review the document from
Vatican II on relations with non-Christian people. It
says: " Again, Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the radical
insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men,
in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the
state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own efforts or through
higher help, supreme illumination..." The in the next paragraph it
says: "The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in the
[non-Christian] religions. She regards with sincere reverence those
ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though
differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth,
nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.
... The Church therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and
collaboration with the followers of other religions,... they recognize,
preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as
the socio-cultural values found among these men." The Declaration on
non-Christian Religions, promulgated by Pope Paul VI, sec. 2. (The recent Vatican Document Dominus Jesus does not
negate what Vatican II taught or Pope Paul VI pormulgated. You can read
Dominus Jesus at the Vatican web site.)
Another source of insight from various traditions is found in World
Scripture. Note the sections on prayer
and meditation. (In
response to a concern from a reader that the World Scripture site is
sponsored by the Unification Church to obtain converts, I asked the
editor to comment. His
"The LORD is my strength and my shield; in
him my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my
song I give thanks to him." NRSV. [Ps. 28:7 NAB Ps.
1. Jesus himself prayed to his Father.
He thanked God for having heard his prayer when he raised Lazarus (John 11:41). Jesus often when to a mountain to pray. [The mountain is a place of nearness to God.
Palestine is hilly so Jesus would go to a hill top to
find a quiet place to pray. In a mystical sense, God was "up" in the
heavens to he would go up to God.] He would even pray
all night as he did just before naming the Apostles ( Luke 6:12). We would follow his example and pray before a major
decision that God would grant guidance. He also prayed after the
feeding of 5,000 people ( Mark 6:42-46). We would follow his example and pray in thanksgiving that
God granted a request. He prayed before his crucifixion ( Matt. 26:36-39 ) and we should pray whenever we feel fear.
2. An essential ingredient of successful prayer
is faith. If your read the miracle stories in the gospel,
you will find that faith is often mentioned. When Jesus
healed he often said your faith has healed you. Jesus strongly asserts the need for faith if prayer is
to be effective when he says in Matt. 17:20 and 21:21
that faith can move mountains. While a mountain is a metaphor, we often
have "mountains" in our lives that need moving. It is faith and prayer
that helps us overcome these problems.
Sometimes people feel they do not have that much
faith, and despair ever growing into that level of faith. And yet,
according to 1 Cor. 12:9, faith is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is
something we can ask God to give us. You could just ask "Lord grant me
the gift of deep unshakable faith" or the faith to move mountains. One
prayer I have used is: "grant me a gift of power in prayer for the sake
of good". Nevertheless, Jesus did grant requests for people of weak
faith; such was the case with the man who said "I believe, help my
unbelief" (Mark 9:24). (The mind and emotions are not the same. We might
be able to say that "yes God can do this", but find it
difficult to trust God will do this, or will respond. Trusting God is
something most of us need to work on. If our prayer fits within God's
objectives, will accomplish good, and is in line with what he has
promised, then we should trust Him.) For stories on the power and
action of God, see Walking on Water from the Resurrection
3. Jesus promises that prayer will be
granted in Matt. 21:22, and Matt. 7:7-12. Notice however that Jesus does not say that God would give
what ever we ask. He says God will give good things. In Luke the
promise is to give the Holy Spirit (Lk 11:13). Therefore, no matter what happens with our request, the
one benefit that comes is greater involvement with God, and the growth
of God's presence in us. In John 16:24 Jesus says we should ask in his name and if we do it will
be granted. Why? That our joy may be complete.
Phil. 4:6 "Do not worry about anything, but
in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your
requests be made known to God."
4. When prayer does not seem to be working,
not receive what we ask, recall that we must not ask
wrongly, seeking merely our own pleasure (James 4:3), or passions as the NAB puts it.. John teaches that we
receive what we ask if we keep the commandments (1John 3:22). Some sound advice comes down to us from the Desert
Fathers, monks and hermits living in north Africa after about 300 AD.
"Abbe Zeno said, 'If a man wants God to hear
his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his
own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he
must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Through this action God
will hear everything that he asks.'" See Matt. 5:44.
"The reason why sometimes you have asked and
not received, is
because you have asked amiss, either
inconsistently, or lightly, or
because you have asked for what was not good
for you, or because
you have ceased asking." St. Basil, quoted
Wednesday August 23, 2000.
John Vianney, the patron of parish priests, once confided to a young
priest the secret of his success. He said it was both prayer and
fasting. He went on to say that the devil can be beaten with the
curtailment of one's food, drink and sleep. This is what helped him to
save people from the power of sin. The scriptural reference is Mark 9:28: "And he said to them: This kind can go out by nothing, but
by prayer and fasting." (Douay-Rheims version). (Most translations omit the word "fasting" in Mark 9:29, but acknowledge that it is in some manuscripts. See footnote 7 in NAB.) See these passages in NIV on fasting and prayer. (And remember, Matthew 17:20 on the importance of faith.)
Prayer is good with fasting and
alms, more than to lay up treasures of gold. Tob. 12:8. NAB.
The fasting adds nothing to God, but demonstrates
to us and God how serious our prayer is. Any christian sacrifice is a
joining with the sacrifice of the Cross, and by joining our prayer to
the Sacrifice of the Cross perhaps the power for good that was
unleashed will help our prayer.
Restriction of food and drink has a very long
tradition and is regularly recommended by ancient writers. Gregory of
Sinai calls the belly the "queen of passions" and "the colleague of the
demons". He suggests that "the practiser of silence [a monk or one who
prays] should always be starved, never allowing himself to eat his
fill." If he over eats he becomes drowsy and cannot pray "with purity
and firmness". Translated by Kadloubovsky and Palmer, Writings from
the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart, Farber and Farber, pp.78-79.
John Vianney would eat one or two boiled potatoes when he got too
"I shall speak first about control of the
stomach, the opposite to gluttony, and about how to fast and what and
how much to eat. I shall say nothing on my own account, but only what I
have received from the Holy Fathers. They have not given us only a
single rule for fasting or a single standard and measure for eating,
because not everyone has the same strength; age, illness or delicacy of
body create differences. But they have given us all a single goal: to
avoid over-eating and the filling of our bellies... A clear rule for
self-control handed down by the Fathers is this: stop eating while
still hungry and do not continue until you are satisfied."
Modern people should not over do it. Be sure to
have a balanced diet with all the necessary nutrients. The normal
fast called for by the church during lent is one large meal, two
small meals, and nothing between meals. Do not fast in a way that
would be harmful to health or go against your doctor's advice.
Remember that fasting is not appropriate on Sundays or one of the
great feasts. However, if you have a prayer that concerns you, and
you wish to make extra effort, fasting can be one way. In addition,
fasting in Lent, as well as abstenance from meat, are
excellent ways to do penance. So, if you feel guilty about something,
even if forgiven, the Lord may be calling you to make up for it in
some way. One possibility is fasting.
6. Jesus also taught that we should be persistent
and not give up hope. (Luke 18:1)
This is especially important when our prayer seeks
to change someone or get them to act in some way. God gave us free will
and so he is self-limited. He will not over ride that free will.
Instead, he can teach, encourage, cajole, even plead, but he will not
force us to do something. Therefore, we need to be patient and
persistent in our prayers. Remember that St. Augustine's mother, a
saint herself, prayed for a long time for her son before he finally
heard God and changed. I sometimes think that in the story of the
persistent widow it is God who is the widow and the reluctant judge is
the person we are praying for. God keeps trying to get him to do what
is right and good, but he is stubborn. Never-the-less God's patience
and persistence can win in the end. Our job is to keep praying while
God keeps trying to solve the problem.
Also remember that God has a better sense of
timing than we do. He knows when the right moment will come. There are
bound to be factors operating that we know nothing about, negative
consequences that could occur should God act at the wrong time. This is
where faith in the sense of trust in God is essential. We must believe
that He really does know what He is doing (or not doing).
7. St. Paul teaches us to rejoice always, pray
without ceasing , and give thanks under all circumstances. 1Thes. 5:16-18. Paul also says we must not return evil for evil (1Thes. 5:15), and Jesus commands us to pray for our enemies (Matt. 5:44).
Giving thanks is very important in prayer.
For example, the word "thanks"
than 25 times in the Psalms in the NIV. "Do not be anxious
about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with
thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6 (NIV). "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and
thankful." Col. 4:2 (NIV).
Liturgy.The mass and sacraments are the
greatest prayers and are the essential public prayers used with the
other members of the Body of Christ. However, our personal prayer life
away from the liturgy will have a great effect on how much benefit we
will receive from liturgy.
"A soul given to prayer profits more from the sacraments and
other means of salvation than another whose prayer is without constancy
and intensity. One may recite the Divine Office, assist at Holy Mass
and receive the sacraments, but if the soul does not give itself
faithfully to prayer its progress will often be mediocre." Blessed
A. The Mass and Sacraments are the official prayers of the Church. They are more than
just public or officially mandated prayers. They are points of
interaction with God. He is truely present and acting in specific ways.
For example, in the sacrament of penance God forgives, in baptism He
overcomes the separation caused by original sin and integrates a person
into his people. In the Sacrament of the sick, He acts to heal
spiritually, emotionally, and even physically.
The mass, however, is the normal public worship
of the church in which He becomes genuinely, truely, even physically
present, under the forms of bread and wine, in addition to being
present in His Word and in the person of the priest who leads the
community in worship. [CCC 1088] But that is not
all, for the very events of salvation are made available to those
worshiping. [See CCC 1363-1367.] Because of
this all our prayer and "[a]ll other liturgical rites and all the works
of the Christian life are linked with the eucharistic celebration, flow
from it, and have it as their end." The General Instruction to the
The Liturgy of the Eucharist
and Sacrament are all forms of prayer and bring us the presence of
God in a unique and powerful way. As the Second Vatican Council taught:
"Christ is always present to his Church,
especially in the actions of the liturgy. He is present in the
sacrifice of the Mass, in the person of the minister (it is the same
Christ who formerly offered himself on the cross that now offers by the
ministry of priests) and most of all under the eucharistic species
[i.e. under the appearance of bread and wine]. He is present in the
sacraments by his power, in such away that when someone baptizes,
Christ himself baptizes. He is present in his word, for it is he
himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church.
Finally, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he himself
promised: Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in
Indeed, in this great work which gives
perfect glory to God and brings holiness to men, Christ is always
joining in partnership with himself his beloved Bride, the Church,
which calls upon its Lord and through him gives worship to the eternal
It is therefore right to see the liturgy as
an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ... Accordingly,
every liturgical celebration, as an activity of Christ the priest and
of his body, which is the Church, is a sacred action of a preeminent
kind. No other action of the Church equals its title to power or its
degree of effectiveness." Vatican
II: Constitution on the Liturgy.
You may also find it helpful to look at the
homilies the New Malleray Abbey has online. Go to their home page and click on the
Sharing the Word Index for Homilies and Spiritual Talks presented this
year. A resource I often find valuable is the Center
Site at St. Louis University. They also have
extensive additional links on Liturgy.
Liturgyof the Hoursis a
form of prayer dating back to the earliest history of the church. It
consists primarily of scripture, especially the Psalms, and provides
different material for several parts of the day, and it all changes
daily. You cannot very easily get bored with repetition. This form of
prayer has been used in Monasteries, and by clergy and religious, from
ancient times down to the present day. It can be used by anyone. Link
to Universalis to receive a better explanation and to find the Liturgy of
the Hours for today. Look at the end of the Office of Readings for a non-scriptural text taken from church tradition. The General Instruction of the
Liturgy of the Hours, an official document,
is online. A good explanation of this prayer is found at Liturgy of the Hours site from
the Archdiocese of New York, and you can view an outline of the structure of each
hour. For those who would like to download the texts to use in family
and group prayer, go to the Liturgy of the Hours Apostolate.
The Grail translation of the Psalms is very good, and is used in the official Breviary. For
some history and description of the Breviary see this 1950 article. A good place to look is the Daily Office using the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. The liturgy of
the hours uses the Psalms extensively so you may want to read over an
introduction to the Psalms:The Psalms: The Prayer Book
Closely related to the use of the Liturgy of
the Hours is Lectio Divina, which means divine or sacred
reading. The goal is praying with scripture, learning how to savor the word of God, encountering God in
His Word, and becoming changed by it. This is an important aspect of
monastic spirituality. Useful material can be found at the Benedictine
page About Lectio Divina. In Lectio Divina And the Practice of Teresian Prayer
Sam Anthony Morello, OCD. He says:
"[L]ectio divina is prayer over the Scriptures. The
monastics of the early
and medieval church developed this into a fine art.
The elements are four: 1) lectio itself, which means
as the careful repetitious recitation of a short text of
meditatio or meditation, an effort to fathom the meaning
of the text and
make it personally relevant to oneself in Christ; 3)
oratio, which means
prayer, taken as a personal response to the text, asking
for the grace
of the text or moving over it toward union with God; and
contemplatio, translated contemplation, gazing at
length on something.
The idea behind this final element is that sometimes, by
grace of God, one is raised above meditation to a state
of seeing or
experiencing the text as mystery and reality; one comes
experiential contact with the One behind and beyond the
text. It is an
exposure to the divine presence, to God's truth and
"Someone else asked Antony: "What must I
do in order to please God?" The old man replied: "Pay attention to what
I advise you: wherever you go, always have God before your eyes;
whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the Scriptures."
Antony's response is two-fold. One pleases
God if one has God always before one's eyes, that is to say, if one
lives constantly in the presence of God - which is the concept the
Fathers of the Desert have of continual prayer; and this is possible if
one allows oneself to be guided by the Scriptures. Antony is not
speaking here of reading or meditating on the Scriptures, but of truly
doing everything according to the testimony of the Scriptures...
What is above all important for the
Fathers of the Desert, is not to read the Bible, but to live it.
Obviously, in order to live it one must know it. And like all
Christians, the monk learned the Scriptures in the first place by
hearing them proclaimed in the liturgical assembly. He also learned by
heart the important parts of Scripture in order to be able to ruminate
them all day long. Finally, certain ones had access to manuscripts of
the Scriptures and were able to read them privately. This private
reading was merely one form among others, and not necessarily the most
important, of allowing oneself to be constantly challenged by the word
of God. " Lectio Divina as school
of prayer among the Fathers of the Desert, Armand VEILLEUX, o.c.s.o.
As you saw above St. Paul teaches that we should
pray constantly (I Thes. 5:17). There
are a couple of ways to try to
do this: the
Prayer of the Heart, the suggestion in the side bar, or the prayer in
#4 below. [See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, sec. 2757.]
Heart. " This simple invocation of faith [i.e. the
repetition of the name of Jesus] developed in the tradition of prayer
under many forms in East and West. The most usual formulation,
transmitted by the spiritual writers of Sinai, Syria, and Mt. Athos, is
the invocation, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us
sinners." It combines the Christological hymn of Philippians 2:6-11 with the cry of the publican and the blind men begging for
light. By it the heart is opened to human wretchedness and the Savior's
mercy. " Catechism of the Catholic
Church, section 2667. "The invocation of the
holy name of Jesus is the simplest way of praying always. " Sec. 2668. A good description of the Jesus Prayer and bibliography
can be found at the St Vladimir's Seminary in the
Article by Albert S. Rossi. Also an
explanation can be found at the Jesus Prayer originally printed in Orthodox Life, and The Jesus Prayer. See also, Writings from the Philokaliaon
Prayer of the Heart, Farber & Farber. This is a true classic
from the Orthodox Tradition. See, Prayer without Ceasing. Search
for the Pholokalia at Amazon.com.
information on how Catholics value orthodox teaching see above.
"Those who have truly decided to serve the
Lord God should practice
the remembrance of God and uninterrupted
prayer to Jesus Christ,
mentally saying: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of
God, have mercy on me,
[I have used this prayer often over the years. It
is very good when you don't have something else to talk about. One
variation I have used is to add a prayer intention, like: "Lord Jesus
Christ have mercy on us sinners. Please heal and help Mom and Dad." You
would then repeat this over and over. I have found it to be very
effective when used with heart felt sincerity. As you repeat your
prayer, conscious concern can become trust that God is listening and
will act. This also complies with the Lord's command to be persistent
and not give up hope. (Luke 18:1)] For additional links see the Jesus Prayer section of Prayer, Meditation and
4. A prayer used
in the Western Tradition is: "O God come to
my assistance, O Lord make haste to help me." This is said by
everyone who prays the Liturgy of the Hours at the start of each hour.
Abba Issac, one of the Desert Fathers, said
to St. John Cassian:
"The formula was given us by a few of the oldest
fathers who remained. They communicated it only to a very few who were
athirst for the true way. To maintain an unceasing recollection of God,
this formula must be ever before you. The formula is this: 'O God, come
to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me.' Psalm 40:13 NIV. Ps 69:2 DR.
Rightly has this verse been selected from the
whole Bible to serve this purpose. It suits every mood and temper of
human nature, every temptation, every circumstance. It contains an
invocation of God, an humble confession of faith, a reverent
watchfulness, a meditation on human frailty, an act of confidence in
God's response, an assurance of his ever-present support. The man who
continually invokes God as his protector is aware that God is ever at
I repeat: each one of us, whatever his
condition in the spiritual life,
needs to use this verse." (Emphasis
Basil Pennington in his book, Centering Prayer.
For more of what Abba Isaac said relative to contemplation, see A
Scriptural Prayer to aid prayer.
[The editor would like to introduce a note of caution. A popular
devotion is something that is not required for salvation, even if
recommended by Mary in an apparition such as Fatima,
be encouraged as very beneficial. Also, a number of possible
appearances of Mary that have occurred, however they are not all
approved, and not all "messages" are to be considered genuine. Even
those that have approval are private
revelation and not required for Cathollic faith. See the Catholic Catechism sec. 67. To
discover if an appearance and its messages are regarded as genuine
contact your own Diocesan officials, or the Bishop within whose Diocese
the purported apparition occurred.]
"So, when you don't know how to go on, when it feels as if your
fire is dying out and you can't throw fragrant logs on it, throw on the
branches and twigs of short vocal prayers, of ejaculations, to keep
feeding the blaze. And you will have used the time well." St.
Josemaria Escriva, The Way, Sinag-Tala Publishers (1994)p.
21. ["Ejaculation" here means: "A sudden, short exclamation, especially
a brief, pious utterance or prayer." American Heritage Dictionary.] Click here for examples.
The Stations of the Cross (frames) with fine art and several sets of prayers is on
our site and Way of the Cross with black and white graphics and no frames. (This
one is from an old prayer book, the Key of Heaven.)
For today, a good way to profit from this
traditional devotion is through meditation. Specifically, use your
imagination to be present as Christ walks to Calvary. See yourself as a
participant, rather than merely an observer. You can even take the role
of Christ in your meditation to feel and experience what he went
through for us. (For more on how to meditate see Meditation below.)
A litany is another type of composed prayer. For a description, a
short history as well as a list of approved litanies, see our page, Litanies Described and Explaned.
Using the name of God has always been thought to be
powerful. We could easily call on the name of Jesus by using the litany of the Holy Name. For
example, "Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on us" and "Jesus,
splendor of the Father, have mercy on us" are two of the petitions in
The Jews so revered God's name that they would
almost never utter it, except for the High Priest, and then only in
prayer. Jesus called God our Father and so it is easy to call on him
using this name. However, when I am serious about a prayer I sometimes
do call on the English translation of the name of God, given to Moses:
"I am who am." Thus you could say: "You Who Are, I respectfully ask..."
I would not suggest anyone do this lightly or frivolously.
Devotion and use of the name of Jesus however,
has always been encouraged. For more on the use of the name, including
some quotes from saints and scripture see the Power
of the Name of Jesus.
In the litany of the saints, used in the
Easter Vigil liturgy, we call on a long series of saints to pray for
us. This particular litnay is very ancient; it began with the martyrs in the catacombs. If you want to personalize a litany, or make it more
specific, replace the "have mercy on us" with your prayer intention or
need. With the litany of saints, you could say: "St. John, please pray
for Cliff's health". Add your own favorite saints, if they are not in
the litany, and some of the new ones recently canonized. There are
other traditional litanies, such as the Litany
of the Passion. For more litanies for
private use see the E-book of 27 litanies. You could also try the litany of the Sacred Heart. For more on the Sacred Heart see our page on this Devotion. See Litany for the Dying.
7. Something suggested
in the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a place set aside for prayer
in the home. It can be a "prayer corner" with Sacred Scripture,
and with an icon or statue, in order for the one praying to be there in
secret with our Father. (Matt. 6:6 "But whenever you pray, go into your
room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and
your Father who sees in secret will reward you."NRSV) See the Catechism
of the Catholic Church at sec. 2691, paragraph 2, guides to prayer. You can also add candles
some Christians to be nervous, but they have long
been a part of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions. See Using Ritual Every Day.
7. Prayerin a
natural environment can be very helpful. Pope John Paul has said:
"We can pray perfectly when we are out in the mountains or on a lake
and we feel at one with nature. Nature speaks for us or rather speaks
to us. We pray perfectly." See, John Paul II, The
Prayer, Crossroad Publishing Co. (1995). St.
John Vianney early in his ministry would take walks to exercise and to
pray. He thirsted for solitude and peace and loved the fresh breeze of
the open country. It has been said that his happiness was to pray in
the woods were alone with God he would contemplate the divine
greatness. He even the song of birds would help raise his soul to the
Creator. See Abbe Francis Trochu's work The Cure D'Ares
at page 119, reprinted by Tan Publications. (St. John
also prayed for his parish for very long periods in the church
including during the night. During his walks he would say the breviary
and continue to call out to God for his parish.)
However, prayer in nature is not the only way to
pray. Sometimes people feel that this sort of prayer is all one needs.
Aside from the continuous belief of Christians down the ages that
worship in common is good and necessary, there is the statement of the
Lord that when two or more are gathered in His Name, He is there in
their midst. (Matt. 18:20 ) Thus, both group prayer and prayer in a natural
environment are valuable and important. St. John Vianney gave up
the walks and prayer in the fields and woods in order to be more
available to people who needed him, especially with regard to the
Another possibility is to create a
meditational environment that helps with mindfulness and
contemplation. It would be a place with plants, perhaps a fountain, or
Zen style sand garden. You could add a bell and statue if you like. The
idea is to bring together elements that are natural and peaceful. A
Buddhist might also sit on the floor in a lotus style position, we
could sit cross legged or use a pillow. Actually there is no reason not
to have both a meditation corner and a prayer corner. In the latter,
you can use more traditional elements (candle, incense, icon) and
engage in simple ritual. See also Mary Prayer
Also, the Cursillo movement has been helpful to many people. At
Cursillo Center you can find information about various locations
world wide. In the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle, you can call
425-775-1247 to contact the Cursillo movement. Yacama, Wa Cursillo and Portland Or. Cursillo have pages and
information on the web.
9. A retreat
experience can be very valuable. We all need to
come away from our daily concerns periodically. It is even more
important with someone who wishes to grow spiritually. We need to be
silent, to quiet the normal demands on time and attention so we can
speak to God more deeply and to listen. Going on retreat can provide
this opportunity. It is a time to remember what is truely important, to
read spiritual wisdom gathered by others with great struggle in lives
of holines and perhaps to speak to a spiritual director. It is a time
to think about truth, and to listen to God's love spoken gently in the
heart. You can do this privately, but people more often benefit
attending a retreat with others at a center devoted to this ministry.
See What is a Retreat? Consider St. Placid Priory , or The Palisades Retreat Center which is owned by the
Archdiocese, or consider one of the other retreat and conferences centers within the Archdiocese of Seattle. You might also consider
the Jesuit Retreat House in Los Altos, CA (the pastor had a great retreat there in 1993), the Jesuits also have a world wide
index of their retreat houses, the Benedictine's have a list of their Retreat houses, such as St. Meinrad (where the pastor went to college),
the California Franciscans have several locations, or check with your parish or
diocese for retreat opportunities in your area. Finally, you can try
the Online Retreat at the Creighton University site.
"The principal reason of the success of
retreats...is their very necessity. In the fever and agitation of
modern life, the need of meditation and spiritual repose impresses
itself on Christian souls who desire to reflect on their eternal
destiny, and direct their life in this world towards God." From
Retreats in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Use your imagination to enrich scripture and prayer. Don't
forget that it was St. Ignatius of Loyola who strongly promoted the use
of imagination in meditation. His work, theSpiritual Exercises, is a monumental classic of the Catholic Tradition. In it
he shows how fantasy will enhance our understanding and appreciation of
Scripture, and how we can talk to Christ using the imagination.
When we read something, a story or a novel, we
create a picture of it in our minds. St. Ignatius simply builds on this
natural tendency. Thus, in the material for the second week of the
Spiritual Exercises he says, " The first Prelude is a composition,
seeing the place: ...here [we] see with the sight of the imagination,
the synagogues, villages and towns through which Christ our Lord
Later in the second week, Ignatius gives more
detailed instructions about meditating on the Nativity. (Please
note that when Igantius uses the word "contemplation" he means the
modern notion of meditation, i.e. a thought process, mental activity.)
"THE SECOND CONTEMPLATION IS ON THE NATIVITY
First Prelude. The first Prelude is the narrative and it
will be here how Our Lady went forth from Nazareth, about nine months
with child, as can be piously meditated, seated on an ass, and
accompanied by Joseph and a maid, taking an ox, to go to Bethlehem to
pay the tribute which Caesar imposed on all those lands (p. 135).
Second Prelude. The second, a composition, seeing the place.
It will be here to see with the sight of the imagination the road from
Nazareth to Bethlehem; considering the length and the breadth, and
whether such road is level or through valleys or over hills; likewise
looking at the place or cave of the Nativity, how large, how small,
how low, how high, and how it was prepared.
Third Prelude. The third will be the same, and in the same
form, as in the preceding Contemplation.
First Point. The first Point is to see the persons; that is,
to see Our Lady and Joseph and the maid, and, after His Birth, the
Child Jesus, I making myself a poor creature and a wretch of an
unworthy slave, looking at them and serving them in their needs, with
all possible respect and reverence, as if I found myself present; and
then to reflect on myself in order to draw some profit.
Second Point. The second, to look, mark and contemplate what
they are saying, and, reflecting on myself, to draw some profit.
Third Point. The third, to look and consider what they are
doing, as going a journey and laboring, that the Lord may be born in
the greatest poverty; and as a termination of so many labors -- of
hunger, of thirst, of heat and of cold, of injuries and affronts --
that He may die on the Cross; and all this for me: then reflecting, to
draw some spiritual profit."
Note how St. Ignatius inserts himself into the
scene taking the part of a slave. The better way to meditate on a
passage of scripture is not to look at it the way you watch television,
as a passive observer, but as a participant who experiences the story
rather than someone who merely witnesses it.
Next Ignatius says, "I will finish with a
Colloquy as in the preceding Contemplation, and with an OUR FATHER."
The dictionary defines "colloquy" as a conversation, and so we would
engage in conversation with the Lord about the scene. St. Ignatius of
Loyola, Spiritual Exercises. (The quoted material from St. Ignatius is in the
2. Meditation has often been understood as
thought about some spiritual idea, passage of scripture, point of
faith, or virtue. It can be the process whereby we think about
something to understand it, consider its implications, and application
to our lives. It is the way we analyze something spiritual. It is not
something that is merely study, which helps inform the mind, but it is
something that leads to prayer. It leads to conversation with God.
Phil. 4:8 "Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is
honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing,
whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is
anything worthy of praise, think about these things."NRSV. NAB.
"St. Teresa tells us that in her meditations she helped
herself with a book for seventeen years. By reading the points of a
meditation from a book, the mind is rendered attentive and is set on a
train of thought. Further to help the mind you can ask yourself some
such questions as the following: What does this mean? What lesson does
it teach me? What has been my conduct regarding this matter? What have
I done, what shall I do, and how shall I do it? What particular virtue
must I practice? But do not forget to pray."
..."[A]bove all, never give way to the mistaken notion that
you must restrain yourself from prayer in order to go through all the
thoughts suggested by your book, or because your prayer does not appear
to have a close connection with the subject of your meditation. This
would simply be to turn from God to your own thoughts or those of some
"To meditate means in general nothing else than to reflect
seriously on some 'spiritual subject. ...' Meditation is a great means
to salvation. It aids us powerfully in the pursuit of our destiny to
know, love, and serve God 'that we may be happy with him forever...'" Lasance, My Prayer-Book, 1908, pp. 136-137. Imprimatur,
If you are unsure of
what to do for meditation or how to start, the Imitation of
Christ in the chapter on meditation suggests: "If you do not know how to meditate on heavenly
things, direct your thoughts to Christ's passion and willingly behold
His sacred wounds." This is especially helpful, according to the
Imitation, if we are suffering ourselves. "If you turn devoutly to the
wounds and precious stigmata of Christ, you will find great comfort in
suffering, you will mind but little the scorn of men...When Christ was
in the world, He was despised by men; in the hour of need He was
forsaken by acquaintances and left by friends to the depths of scorn.
He was willing to suffer and to be despised; do you dare to complain of
anything? He had enemies and defamers; do you want everyone to be your
friend, your benefactor? How can your patience be rewarded if no
adversity test it? How can you be a friend of Christ if you are not
willing to suffer any hardship? Suffer with Christ and for Christ if
you wish to reign with Him.
Had you but once entered into
perfect communion with Jesus or tasted a little of His ardent love, you
would care nothing at all for your own comfort or discomfort..."
A retreat is always a very good way
to improve spiritually. A good way to grow in Ignation spirituality
would be a retreat guided by the Jesuits. The Jesuit
Los Altos, CA is a
wonderful facility and provides a good place for prayer and growth. (Even
retreat is available.) (I had an excellent retreat
experience there in 1993.) The Archdiocese of Seattle offers retreats
4. The Lord's Prayer itself is a good
vehicle for meditation.
Pope John Paul II says "all that can and
must be said to the Father is contained in those seven requests, which
we all know by heart." There is "such a depth that a whole life can
be spent meditating on the meaning of each of them." Each petition
speaks to us of what is essential to our existence. John Paul II, The
Prayer, Crossroad Publishing Co. (1995) pp. 30-31 (Emphasis
in the original).
Because of the Lord's Prayer, "No
one can excuse himself by saying he doesn't know how to pray or what to
pray for." Martin Luther.
The Didache gives the text
of the Lord's Prayer as: "Our Father in
heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done as in
heaven so on earth. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us
our debt, as we also forgive our debtors. And lead us not into
temptation, but deliver us from the evil: for thine is the power, and
the glory, for ever. " This document is probably contemporary with the
gospels (around 80 AD) and states that the prayer should be said 3
times a day.
"[Speak] slowly. Think about what you're
saying, who is saying it and to whom. Because talking fast, without
pausing for reflection, is only noise - the clatter of the cans." St. Josemaria Escriva, The
Way, Sinag-Tala Publishers (1994) p.20.
View Minute Meditations at St. Anthony Messenger.
You casn also receive short meditation material by email from the Daily
Spiritual Seed at firstname.lastname@example.org and is being handled by
http://onelist.com (Back to contents?)
The key here is "our attention is fixed on the
Lord himself." Sec. 2709. We are not thinking about Jesus, or about what he said and
did. We are not imagining what he looks like, nor what he might say in
conversation. We are not pleading with him for help for ourselves or
others. What we do is say to him:
"This little bit of time is my gift to you. I
will simply sit here in your presence, focus my attention on you, and
direct my love toward you. I will not allow anything to distract me,
not anxiety about my future, not worry for the sick, not even a vision
of angels. This time in silence is my gift to you." (RJS)
The silence is an interior silence as well as
exterior. The use of conscious breathing can help one get to the point
of inner peacefulness so that attention can be fully directed to the
Lord. We can also use a "prayer word" to help bring our attention back
if we become distracted. Distractions will come, but we choose to let
the thoughts and images go by rather than give them center stage. Don't
let youself become frustrated, that is an emotion that will just pull
you away from comtemplation. If needed, use breathing or a prayer word
to bring you back to the inner peacefulness and silence, so you can
make yourself present to God. (This is not Quietism
which is condemned, but an inner silence with attention focused on God
present and love of Him present. We believe God is present through
faith but this can become the Prayer
Quiet through grace, a step towards mystical union in the tradiional
"2710 The choice of the time and duration of the prayer arises
from a determined will, revealing the secrets of the heart. One does
not undertake contemplative prayer only when one has the time: one
makes time for the Lord, with the firm determination not to give up, no
matter what trials and dryness one may encounter. One cannot always
meditate, but one can always enter into inner prayer, independently of
the conditions of health, work, or emotional state. The heart is the
place of this quest and encounter, in poverty and in faith." Catechism of the Catholic Church.
But the most important reason for strongly
encouraging the practice of the Rosary is that it represents a most
effective means of fostering among the faithful that commitment to the
contemplation of the Christian mystery which I have proposed in the
Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte as a genuine "training in holiness": "What is needed is a
Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer". Inasmuch
as contemporary culture, even amid so many indications to the contrary,
has witnessed the flowering of a new call for spirituality, due also to
the influence of other religions, it is more urgent than ever that our
Christian communities should become "genuine schools of prayer".
The Rosary belongs among the finest and most
praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation. Developed in the
West, it is a typically meditative prayer, corresponding in some way to
heart" or "Jesus prayer" which took
root in the soil of the Christian East."
We can often be distracted, even when we pray.
All prayer is a conversation with God, and we need to give him our full
attention, otherwise it is like getting an appointment with someone and
then day dreaming during the interview. There are times when it is
appropriate to remember the past so as to seek forgiveness, or to learn
from it, or to remember good things with joy, but in fact the past is
gone. There are times when we need to think about the future, to do
planning for example, and there are times to use our imagination,
especially in meditation, but we need to remember that the future and
fantasy are not actually here. The only moment that is real is the
present moment. It is in this present moment that we meet God.
One way to begin prayer is to return ourselves
to the present moment, and then to focus our attention on God in that
moment. Begin by focusing your attention on your breathing. Give it
your full attention. Breath in slowly, then breath out slowly. Do this
for a minimum of three breaths, or for as long as it takes for your
inner self to become calm and to give up any thoughts or images. If it
helps, you can even say in your mind what you are doing, such as
"breath in one, breath out one, breath in two, breath out two..." A
good example of using conscious breathing in prayer is given at Prayer and Blessing, a method from the Anglican Tradition.
Next you can switch to a prayer word or phrase
while continuing the in-out breathing. An example might be "Jesus",
"God, be merciful to me, a sinner" Luke 18:13, "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me", or "Jesus, Son of
David, have pity on me", Luke 18:38.
positive note one could
say "Praise God", "Thank you Lord", "Come Holy Spirit, fill my heart."
etc. The longer phrases are nice because one half can match the
duration of the in breath and the last half used during the out breath.
You could just continue this as a form of meditation for as long as you
like, or go on to another form of prayer once you have removed your
distractions and are able to give God you full attention.
Remember that breath is an important symbol in
our religious tradition. When God created mankind, He blew the breath
of life into Adam, Gen. 2:7, and thus into us all. When we are aware of our breathing
we can be aware of God still breathing into us the life we have. In
addition, God the Holy Spirit is symbolized by wind, John 3:8 and Acts 2:2; and wind is just the rapid movement of air. Thus, when we
breath we can see this as taking in the Holy Spirit.
Even though we receive the Holy Spirit in
Baptism and Confirmation, we too often allow His presence to dwindle.
The flame that is our faith can burn down to the barest ember, but if
the we blow on the fire, if we try to increase the presence of the Holy
Spirit, then the fire of our faith can become a bonfire to illuminate
our darkness and the darkness of our world. To visualize the inflow of
the Holy Spirit, along with aware, controlled, breathing, is itself a
prayer that God will indeed enter us more fully. (There is no reason to
think that prayers only consist of words.)
Time and Place? It can be any time and any place.
"Do not forget your prayers. These may be
as short as you wish if you find long prayers too hard, but do not
forget them. Even a sign can be a prayer." Pope
John XXIII, A Joyful Soul, Andrews McMeel Publ., p.20 (2000).
Contemplative prayer and meditation method
taught by St. Ignatius require finding a quiet place and spending time
there from 10 to 30 minutes. For many, this may be difficult, at least
psychologically. We all have our routine and we don't always want to
change it. Never-the-less we can find more time for prayer, if we just
look at our daily routine.
What is your mind doing during the "morning
ritual" when you are getting ready to leave the house? Do you spend
time reading? Why not spiritual reading or a psalm? Do you sing in the
shower? Why not a hymn.
Do you think about the day?
Why not do that while asking for guidance on the day? Do you drive to
work, or drive as part of your work? Why not listen to audio tapes on spirituality, or the bible? Take the train? Again, you
could listen to tapes or do spiritual reading. Addicted to the mourning
news on TV, or the paper? There are abundant opportunities to pray for
the people you hear about who are victims of crime or misfortune. Add
to that a prayer asking God to protect you and your family. While at
work, what do you do, or what do you think about while on break, or at
lunch? You could read a psalm, a short bit of spiritual reading, or
just talk to God. Any friend is interested in hearing about your day,
even your worries and troubles. God is that friend. If you don't
experience friendship like that think of Him as family (the
good kind). Didn't somebody say that family are the people your stuck
with, that you can't get rid of? He wont leave. CCC 2743.
"You wrote to me: 'To pray is to talk with God. But about
what?' About what? About him, and yourself: joys, sorrows, successes
and failures, great ambitions, daily worries - even your weaknesses!
And acts of thanksgiving and petitions - and love and reparation. In
short, to get to know him and to get to know yourself - 'to get
acquainted!'" St. Josemaria Escriva,
The Way, Sinag-Tala Publishers (1994)p.21.
As to finding psalms and other material to use morning
or even other parts of the day, the Liturgy of the Hours is
than the ones used by priests. Look for the one
volume edition or the even smaller one, Shorter Christian Prayer,
book store. (You could try the Kaufer Co. in
Seattle, or amazon.com.) I would
also strongly recommend the The Imitation of Christ.You may perhaps feel that some parts are "out of
date", but when you feel this way you have also discovered a point to
think about carefully. In modern America, is there still any place for
obedience or humility? What do you think God thinks?
One summer job I had while in seminary college
was sweeping the floors in a factory on third shift. Not demanding
work, and no one else was around. So to over come boredom and the
absence of people, I would say the Hail Mary repeatedly all night long.
Now I would use the Prayer of the Heart (a.k.a the Jesus Prayer). A
charismatic Christian might quietly use the gift of tongues. If the
work you do doesn't demand much thought (like me sweeping floors) you
could use the imagination to go to a "special place" a secrete room, a
garden, the natural setting to be with the Lord. This was an approach
St. Catherine of Sienna used as a girl when her parents demanded she do
most of the household work to keep her from prayer. See the chapter
"The Secret Room" in Lost in God, by Terry Matz. It is
published by Liguori. See also St. Francis de Sales on Coming
into God's Presence.
"As regards the place of meditation [i.e.
prayer], St. Alphonsus says:
'We can meditate in every place, at home or
elsewhere, even in walking and at our work. How many are there who, not
having any better opportunity, raise their hearts to God and apply
their minds to mental prayer, without leaving their occupations, their
work, or who meditate even while traveling. He who seeks God will find
Him, everywhere and at all times.'" Lasance, My Prayer-Book,
Imprimatur, Archbishop of New York, 1908.
"He who learns to live the interior life and to take little
account of outward things, does not seek special places or times to
perform devout exercises. A spiritual man quickly recollects himself
because he has never wasted his attention upon externals. No outside
work, no business that cannot wait stands in his way. He adjusts
himself to things as they happen." The Imitation of Christ, Meditation.
The Habit of Prayer.
"The habit of prayer is no burden to any one,
for we can pray worthily at any time, in any place, and any posture.
Even the motion of the lips is not necessary; the mind and heart can be
engaged in it when we read or converse or go about our daily work.
Moreover prayer produces a delicious feeling of hope and rest in God;
and this feeling is worth more than the happiness that wealth can
purchase or the world give.
God respects not the arithmetic of our prayers,
how many they are; nor the rhetoric of our prayers, how elegant they
are; nor the music of our prayers, how melodious they are; nor the
logic of our prayers, how methodical they are; but the sincerity of our
prayers, how heart-sprung they are. -- Anon." Lasance, My
Prayer-Book, 1908, p. 136. Imprimatur, Archbishop of New York, 1908.
"[Prayer] has no delegated grace to avert any
sense of suffering; but it supplies the suffering... with endurance: it
amplifies grace by virtue, that faith may know what she obtains from
the Lord, understanding what--for God's name's sake--she suffers. But
in days gone by, withal prayer used to call down plagues, scatter the
armies of foes... Now, however, the prayer of righteousness avers all
God's anger, keeps bivouac on behalf of personal enemies, makes
supplication on behalf of persecutors... Prayer is alone that which
vanquishes God. But Christ has willed that it be operative for no evil:
He had conferred on it all its virtue in the cause of good. And so it
knows nothing save how to recall the souls of the departed from the
very path of death, to transform the weak, to restore the sick, to
purge the possessed, to open prison-bars, to loose the bonds of the
innocent. Likewise it washes away faults, repels temptations,
extinguishes persecutions, consoles the faint-spirited, cheers the
high-spirited, escorts travellers, appeases waves, makes robbers stand
aghast, nourishes the poor, governs the rich, upraises the fallen,
arrests the falling, confirms the standing. Prayer is the wall of
faith: her arms and missiles against the foe who keeps watch over us on
all sides. And, so never walk we unarmed." Tertullianon prayer (He lived and
wrote about the year 160.)
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