Prayer

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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. Alphonsus.

Last change: 11/5/2009

Contents of this page:

classic texts of catholic spirituality and prayer

conscious breathing and mindfulness

saints

Scripture on prayer

methods: mass, Liturgy of the hours, Lectio Divina, prayer without ceasing, Rosary, litanies, retreats

meditationLord's Prayer

contemplation

time and place for prayer

Getting started

Prayer Requests

Pages at our site:

A Short Catechism on Prayer


JesusArt as a Source of Meditation.


Traditional teaching on Virtue.

Prayer for RefugeesStart a Prayer Chain

Prayers for PeaceThe Name of Jesus as Prayer

Some sayings of the Fathers of Orthodox Christianity
(For information on how catholics value orthodox spirituality see below.)
 
Spiritual Beginning - Care for the inner self.
 
Come into God's Presence. and Prayer without Ceasing.
Death and Heaven
Prayer of Clement, Bishop of Rome and Being devoted to God
Prayer for the New Millennium
Prayer when death comes.
Blessed Columba Marmion, O.S.B. on Prayer.
 
The Stations of the Cross.
(You can also read these stations without frames and graphics.
Shorter Meditation on the stations of the Cross
and Newman's Longer Meditations on the Cross.)
 Also, you can view a version of the Stations with Black and White graphics and no frames,
Or just look at the black and white graphics.
 
Prayer before Confession.
 
Tertullian: Prayer can conquer God.
Prayer of St. John Gabriel
St. John Chrysostom: Prayer of Longing.
Prayer to obtain final perseverance and Various useful official prayers
 
The Psalms: The Prayer Book of God.
A shorter introduction to the Psalms is from My Daily Psalm Book,
a Prayer Guide for the Psalms, part one, and part two.
The Blessing Psalter from the Orthodox Tradition.
 
A Scriptural Prayer to Aid Prayer.
Bible Passages on Prayer
 
An Eight Day Meditation by John Cardinal Newman and
A Short Road to Perfection. Also, Prayer for the Faithful Departed.
 
The Value of Morning Prayer and specific prayers useful at morning prayer
Anglican Morning Prayers.

A Description of Traditional Daily Catholic Prayers - Vocal Prayer. - The Sign of the Cross
A short form of daily prayer (Episcopal).
The Value of Evening Prayer
Night Prayer from the Key of Heaven (Imprimatur 1924).
Evening Prayers from My Prayer Book, 1908.
 
Prayers for various needs from the Lutheran Church
Why say Amen by Luther. and Luther on the Lord's Prayer
 
A Personal Prayer
Abandonment (an excerpt) by de Cassade
A brief description of how to contemplate.
A martyr because of the sign of the Cross.
The Rosary
Anglican Prayers for the Sick
 The School of Prayer (from the Methodist Church)
 Scripture and prayer relative to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
 
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Litanies Listed, Described and Explained
 
Prayer with the Saints
Prayer for Priests - Prayer for faithfulness to religion.
St. Alphonsus de Liguori - prayers and spiritual texts
St. Augustine, Prayer is from the heart.
 

A Layperson's Ritual
A Blessing of Anything (for laypeople)
A Blessing of Houses
Prayer when visiting the Sick
Prayer when visiting the Dying
Prayer when death is near.
A Burial Service for Adults
Baptism for the Dying
Viaticum - the Last Sacrament
 

The following pages are from a 1908 prayer book:

Scriptural Maxims, Spiritual Food

Prayers to Honor the Savior,and Litany of the Passion,
Prayer for Travelers, and Prayer for a Happy Death
Pope Clement XI's Universal Prayer, Invocations - Short Prayers, the Litany of the Name of Jesus and Devotions to the Angels.
Vocal Prayer - About Short Prayer - The Sacrifice of the Mass - Prayers to the Holy Spirit
 

 
"All the damned have been lost by not praying; had they prayed, they would not have been lost." St. Alphonsus. See, Catechism of the Catholic Church sec. 2744, and Admonitions.

Classic Texts of the Catholic Tradition on Spirituality and Prayer:

1. The Confessions of St. Augustine is at New Advent, also an extensive list of his other works are available at their section on Fathers of the Church. More material can be found at the Augustine site. Images of St. Augustine. (They also have a neat drawing.)

2. The Cloud of Unknowing is at the Christian Classics Electronic Library. It is a classic text on contemplative prayer.

3. The legacy of St. Francis of Assisi, including the Little Flowers of St. Francis. There is a Franciscan Web Page. Be sure to look at the short biography of St. Francis. In addition, a large number of historical documents are linked to the Franciscan Archive. You can see more about Francis at our page, St. Francis Preaches to the Birds.

4. Juliana of Norwich: Revelations of Divine Love.

5. St. Catherine of Sienna: The Dialogue. This includes a treatise on Prayer.

6. The Imitation of Christ. It has been asserted that this book has been the most important text, other than the bible, in the Western Church in the last five centuries.

7. St. John of the Cross: The Ascent of Mt. Carmel. John was a Discalced Carmelite.

8. St. Teresa of Avila: Interior Castle. Teresa was also a Discalced Carmelite.

9. St. Francis de Sales: Introduction to the Devout Life. It has been reprinted by Tan Books. See Come into God's Presence for an excerpt.

10. Br. Lawrence: The Practice of the Presence of God.

11. St. Louis de Montfort: True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. An audio tape of this book is available from St. Ignatius Press.

12. Jean-Pierre de Caussade: Abandonment to Divine Providence. You may view some quotes from his work.

13. St. Therese of Lisieux: Story of a Soul. Her autobiography is available commercially through amazon.com. you can also view the online list of Carmelite Liturature.

14. The Rule of St. Benedict is a way of life and prayer that has served great numbers of Christians through the centuries. A general description of the rule is given by +Abbot Primate Jerome Theisen OSB. The Rule of St. Benedict itself can be useful to modern lay people for insight into the spiritual life. For example, see chapters 19 and 20 on reverence in prayer. The Rule is also available arranged for daily reading. (A brief general presentation of Monastic spirituality is at the Christ in the Desert Site. Also see below on Lectio Devina.)

15. The Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius of Loyola. For more on the Spiritual Exercises see below. St. Ignatius founded the Jesuits. You can look at links to Jesuit Resources on the web. There is a short life of St. Ignatius on line, in the 1913 version of the Catholic Encyclopedia.

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.

See a list of online classic texts at the Theological Library.

Other useful texts.

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.

 
For links to material on Spirituality see that section of Theology Library.. A discussion of prayer is in the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas.
 
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 catholic authors.
 
For a comprehensive list of Mystics and links about them see Who's Who in the History of Mysticism. and the Web site of Unknowing, celebrating the English mystics.
 
[For general book sellers online: In addition to Amazon.com, another place to look for books is Powell's in Portland, Or. They have a city block sized store full of one million new, used and out of print books in stock. You can browse their catalog online. For out of print books see Trussel. Other major regional book stores include Seattle's University Book Store, which serves the University of Washington. Another good place to go is Barnes and Noble. You can look for other stores on the Book Web.] (Back to contents?)
 
The Saints
We can ask any person in heaven, any saint, to join us in prayer.
This includes our relatives who have gone before us.

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.

 

For Catholic teaching on the saints see Cardinal Gibbons on prayer to the saints. For traditional material see the Council of Trent. For Papal documents issued on individual saints see Theology Library. And the current Catholic Catechism:

 
"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.
 

Reading about the Saints can be very helpful to the spiritual life. In addition to their written works, we can learn from their lives. These are the people who were successful, often in spite of great difficulty. There isIcon of St. Phillip an excellent page of material about saints and individual saints at The Theological Library Saints Page. You can look up specific saints at the New Advent Supersite. You can also try the extensive listings at the Catholic Online Saints & Angels site. Take a look at the list of new Blesseds, who are only one step from canonization. Note the page on lesser known saints, and saints canonized by Pope JohnPaul II, and those he has beatified. There is a list of Patron Saints and a page of Saints for the Teenage Soul. Check the material and prayers at the Feast of All Saints web site. See also, Bible Passages on Mary, the Mother of God.

(The icon of St. Philip was obtained from The Icon Archive .)
 
American Saints
 

There are some very interesting new people now, including Americans, such as Bl. Junipero Serra who founded the California Missions, and Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha, a native American, Bl. Damien the Leper [i.e. Bl. Damien de Veuster], and St. Juan Diego to whom the Blessed Mother appeared in Mexico. (See also the page on Our Lady of Guadalupe.) Among those recently declared venerable is Pierre Toussaint, a black New Yorker from Haiti, who was freed from slavery in NY in 1807.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton: Wife, mother, convert, foundress

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini: missionary, foundress

St. John Neumann: Redemptorist, Bishop of Philidelphia

St. Katharine Drexel: foundress, worked with Native Americans and African Americans, begain Xavier University in New Orleans. [image]

St. Rose Phillipine Duchesne: worked with Native Americans

Sts. Isaac Jogues, Jesuit priest and Rene Goupil, surgeon: French missionaries to Native Americans, killed in N.Y. state.

Bl. Mother Theodore Guerin: educator, established schools in Indiana

Bl. Francis Xavier Seelos: Redemptorist priest, preacher. "Father Seelos became known as the priest who always smiled..."

Canadian Saints
 
This web site's home Parish Patrons: St. Gregory the Wonderworker, St. Yves, The Sacred Heart of Jesus
 
There is a calendar of saints from the Orthodox Church. An excellent discussion of saints in the Orthodox Church that is part of the teaching of the Orthodox Church which is presented by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
[I give references to 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."]
 
 
 
Blessed Mother Teresa: EWTN has material on Mother Teresa. as does the Mother Teresa Site at St. Anthony Messinger Press. The Vatican has material on her Beatification, and a biography.
 
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. AmericanCatholic.org: Saint of the Day

Conscious 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 breathing.)
 
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. Thank him.
You can rest in Him for a time, or begin your conversation. (Being Peace may be helpful.)
 
St. Igatius of Loyola also suggest a way to pray using the rhythm of beathing.
 
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 wind.
1. God breathed into man the "breath of life". Gen. 2:7.
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].
3. The wind is God's servant. It is the vehicle he rides when he comes. 2 Sam. 22:11, Ps. 18:10-11ff, Ps. 104:3. Ezek. 1:4.
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. 2697. Perhaps we could remember 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 Prayer.
"Join to every breath a sober invocation of the name of Jesus and the thought of death with humility. Both these practices bring great profit to the soul." Abba Evagrius on Prayer. See also Prayer without Ceasing.
 
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.

 
"Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come.
We have only today. Let us begin." Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
 

 

(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 reply.)

 
 
Scripture on Prayer

Ps. 141:2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and theLord lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice. [Ps. 140 in the Douay-Rheims.]

"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. 27 in DR.]

 

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 House of Prayer.

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, when we do 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.
 
A good scriptural analysis of why prayer is not granted can be found at Unanswered Prayers: The Most Common Reasons, by Rev. Dale A. Robbins, M.Div. (who is ordained for the Assembly of God Church).
 
"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 from Daily E-Pistle Wednesday August 23, 2000.

 

5. St. 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 hungry.
 
"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."
St. John Cassian in Sayings of The Fathers.
 

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.

See Christian Fasting on our website and Bible passages on 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" is used more 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).

 
You can reviewe references to thankfulness in Naves [or look up: one of the ten lepers whom Jesus healed, Luke 17:15,16; and before taking food, by Jesus, Matt. 14:19; Mark 8:6,7; Acts 27:35.]
 
For much more extensive examples of scripture and prayer see Bible Passages on Prayer.
 

For an online Catholic translation of the bible, look and the New American Bible (NAB) or for another Catholic translation of the Bible, check out the Douay-Rheims version, which is several hundred years old, but was in common use until after Vatican II.. You can also a look at the Latin Vulgate text or search for a passage in the Latin Vulgate at Bible Gateway.  [In addition, there are catholic editions of the RSV, and the NRSV. The Jerusalem Bible is also a Catholic resource. The very basic contemporary English version has a Catholic Edtion, as does the very readable Good News Translation.]

For non-Catholic translations of the bible, you can look at the various versions at Bible Gateway. (Back to contents?)
 
 Click on the image to see a larger version.
The First Liturgy
How to pray.
Catholics usually begin their prayers with The Sign of the Cross.
1. 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 Columba Marmion, O.S.B.
 
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 Roman Missal.
 
 
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 their midst.

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 Father.

 
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.
 
For more on liturgy you can look at The Sacrifice of the Mass, Meeting Christ in the Liturgy, Antiphon, a liturgical journal, or you can look through the links at the Theological Library , the Benedictine's Liturgy index, and the Resources for Catholic Educators, Liturgy. There is now a on-line copy of the 1975 General Instruction for the Roman Missal, or the current GIRM. which states the rules each priest and parish must follow in its celebration of Eucharist. You can also check the MCITL Liturgy Library and Catholic Liturgy.com. For more on why to worship at mass, see: Power of the Mass . To prepare for mass, you can read the daily or Sunday lectionary selections at the NCCB/USCC site which uses the New American Bible.  Click here for links to lectionary sites, and here for the National conference of bishops committee on liturgy documentation site.
 
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 for Liturgy Sunday Web Site at St. Louis University. They also have extensive additional links on Liturgy.

 
 
AmericanCatholic.org: Lent Feature
See also Stations of the Cross below. Also for Lent, Penitential Practices for Today's Catholics.

B. The Liturgy of the Hours is 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 of God.
A shorter introduction to the Psalms is from My Daily Psalm Book,
a Prayer Guide for the Psalms, part one, and part two.
Table of Psalms for Feasts and Seasons (Lutheran).
Luther: Praying the Psalms
A Blessing Psalter (from the Orthodox).

 

2. 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 reading, understood
as the careful repetitious recitation of a short text of Scripture; 2)
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 4)
contemplatio, translated contemplation, gazing at length on something.
The idea behind this final element is that sometimes, by the infused
grace of God, one is raised above meditation to a state of seeing or
experiencing the text as mystery and reality; one comes into
experiential contact with the One behind and beyond the text. It is an
exposure to the divine presence, to God's truth and benevolence."
(Copyright Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, ICS Publications.
Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, if this
copyright notice is included.)
 
See a good introduction of Lectio Divina from St. Andrew's Abbey. There are articles on Lectio Divina at About Lexio Divina from the Order of St. Benedict. The page Prayer, the heart of Monastic Life gives insight into Benedictine approach to prayer.  Fr. Thomas Keating has a descrption of this form of prayer as it applies to contempation and centering prayer. For a very short and simple statement on how to use this method to get more out of scripture see Praying with Scripture and Holy Reading, which is from a Presbyterian Parish.
 
 
"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.

 

 
An extensive list of materials on the bible can be found at Electronic New Testament Educational Resources by Felix Just, SJ an assistant professor of New Testament Studies at Loyola Marymount University. Look at his page on the Lectionary for tables on lectionary readings and links to useful websites on the readings. To find bible passages you can use for lectio divina, see The Parables of Jesus, The Miracles of Jesus, and a list of synoptic gospel parallels at Matthew, Mark and Luke. Also see the daily readings for mass at Readings from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops site.

For daily meditation and inspiration, you can see the lectionary readings using the NAB from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. CIN (The Catholic Information Network) has the Daily Word Page along with some commentary on-line. There is the Catholic Calendar with lots of information on the day's liturgy; see also Sunday Homilies Catholic Scripture Study .You could also look at the daily bible readings at the Taize Community. Morning and Evening Prayers are available through episcopalnet.org.

 

3. As you saw above St. Paul teaches that we should pray constantly (I Thes. 5:17). Therepoem 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.]

Prayer of the 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 Philokalia on 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. For 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,
a sinner." St. Seraphim of Sarov, Sayings of the Fathers.
 

[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 Contemplation.

 
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 hand.
I repeat: each one of us, whatever his condition in the spiritual life,
needs to use this verse." (Emphasis added.) Quoted by Basil Pennington in his book, Centering Prayer. For more of what Abba Isaac said relative to contemplation, see A Scriptural Prayer to aid prayer.
 
This icon and others was found at the Icon Archive, now the OCF Icon Archive.
Icon of Mary Mother of God5. For most traditional Catholics, the one method of prayer we were taught was the Rosary; however, more and more people do not know how to use this prayer. Historical material on the Rosary is at its entry in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopadia. You can learn how to pray the rosary for your personal devotion or to satisfy curiosity. Be sure to look at the Power of the Rosary, and review the papal documents on the Rosary, and Paul VI's Marialis Cultus; also look at the Cathechism's (sec. 2678) mention of the rosary. The Marian Magisterial Documents may also be useful. To assist you in this prayer, there is a downloadable Virtual Rosary with all the prayers in proper order with an image to help with meditation on the proper mystery of the Rosary. (They have programs for Windows, Mac, and Palm Pilot.) For those who think the rosary is only a pre-Vatican II prayer form look at the Rosary Since Vatican II. Pope John Paul II urges the use of the rosary as a prayer for peace. Also be sure to look at the Holy Father's new document on the Rosary, Rosarium Virginis Mariæ, which includes his suggestion of the new mysteries of light. For a large list of links on the Rosary see Rosary Links.
 
The Rosary is on our site with explanation, meditations and additional prayers from the Key Of Heaven (a 1906 prayer book).
 
Bible Passages on Mary, the Mother of God.
 
Be sure to look at the Popular Devotions Page of the Theological Library. For background information on the use of beads in prayer see the Catholic Encyclopedia entry. A nontraditional form of the rosary is the Ecumenical Rosary which has non-Catholic Christians in mind, a Christ centered approach. Also, there is a Scriptural Rosary. See the Vatican II statement on popular devotions.
Fifteen promises to those who recite the rosary.
[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, but it can 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.]
 
6. Sometimes people like to use prayers already composed. Perhaps, they can better say what we want to say to God, or at times when we are insecure about what to say it is a place to start. Be sure to consider the Lord's Prayer. You can see an description of traditional daily Catholic prayers on our site or see Catholic Prayers which has a large number of prayers. (They also have a long list of catholic pages) Consider the following:
 
The prayers from Et Cum Spiritu.
Prayers from The Monks of Adoration,
The prayers of St. Francis,
A treasury of Latin Prayers,
The Enchiridion of Indulgences 1968,
Catholic Online Prayer Menu.
Articles on Prayer,
The Prayers in Times of Trial, Notes from Lovers of the Lord.
and Pick a prayer from the Feast of All Saints page.

 

There are some basic prayers at our page on specific morning prayers. You can look at some prayers from the Orthodox tradition, and an interesting use of the psalms for specific intentions in the Blessing Psalter. The Anglican Church Book of Common Prayer and the Book of Common Prayer main page may be helpful. Of commercial prayer books, one that is worth considering is The Catholic Prayer Book, compiled by Msgr. Michael Buckley and published by Servant Books, P.O. Box 8617, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
 
"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.

Another traditional prayer Catholics have used is the Stations of the Cross. It was a way for ordinary people to engage in "pilgrimage", to walk the path Jesus walked to Calvary. The Way of the Cross or the Stations of the Cross are explained at New Advent entry taken from the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia. (Caution: although the history is probably ok, because this article is from 1913, it is background only. This devotion is encouraged by indulgences. See our page on Indulgences or The Enchiridion of Indulgences.) There are Stations of the Cross - Scriptural Version, The Way of the Cross with prayers by Msgr Romano Guardini, and I would strongly recommend the Via Crucis, the Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem. For authoritative material on this devotion, see Via Crucis, The Way of the Cross, quoting the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship, Directory on Popular Piety and Liturgy.

 

 

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 this litany.

 
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 and incense. These items cause some Christians to be nervous, but they have long been a part of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions. See Using Ritual Every Day.

See, The Council of Nicaea (7th Ecumenical,787 AD) It says that art depicting Jesus and the saints is permitted. "We [the council bishops], therefore, define with all certitude and accuracy that just as the figure of the precious and life-giving Cross, so also the venerable and holy images, as well in painting and mosaic as of other fit materials, should be set forth in the holy churches of God... [To these we can add] the Book of the Gospels and to the other holy objects,incense and lights may be offered according to ancient pious custom. For the honor which is paid to the image passes on to that which the image represents, and he who reveres the image reveres in it the subject represented... " (Emphasis added). Look at the Council of Trent's declaration on veneration of images and for more on this see our page on Catholic Tradition and Teaching on Religous Art, Sacred Images (from the Vatican's directory on popular devotion), and the Apostolic letter by Pope John Paul II on Veneration of Holy Images. Icon of Christ

 

This icon was obtained from The Icon Archive, now the OCF Icon Archive. See the image of Jesus at Mt. Ibiron, which is one of the monasteries at Mt. Athos, and the explanation of Ukrainian icon painting with examples at the Icon Gallery from Christus Rex. Other locations: Orthodox Icons, and a large file of Russian Icons. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. has some icons, for example the Head of Christ. You might also look at the Byzantine Catholic Church in America home page. Byzantine Catholics are united with the Pope and fully catholic but not members of the Roman Rite. Therefore, their liturgy and customs often differ, but we do not differ in matters of the faith. However, our Orthodox brothers and sisters are not fully united with us at the moment even though very little separates us from full communion. You can learn more at the Orthodox home page. Additional places with Icons can be found at Orthodox Worldlinks.

7. Prayer in 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 Way of 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 sacraments.

 
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 Gardens.
 
 
8. Look into renewal movements, such as Catholic Charismatic Renewal for ways to enliven faith and prayer. (The US Bishops have a publication on Charismatic Renewal, and a statement which is on line.) The Western Washington Catholic Charismatic Renewal is at Box 68803 Seattle, WA 98168-0803. Phone: (425)775-1247. Look at the Catholic Charismatic Center on the World Wide Web site for articles on the renewal and for material on the Gift of Tongues. For more on Tongues see the material on this gift at Saccre web pages.
 
Also, the Cursillo movement has been helpful to many people. At the National 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.
 
Another movement that has been helpful to married couples is Marriage Encounter. This site also has contacts in many regions of the US. In Western Wasington you can look at the Mount Rainier Marriage Encounter. Also Seattle Engaged Encounter which provides very valuable assistance to couples preparing for marriage.
 
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.
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Meditation
 

There is confusion about the difference between "meditation" and "contemplation". These words are often used interchangeably. Meditation is mental prayer rather then vocal; it is thought rather than ritual. "Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion and desire." CCC 2708 , Meditation in the Catechism, and perhaps Catechism of the Catholic Church, guides for prayer.

1. 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, the Spiritual 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,[5] villages and towns through which Christ our Lord preached."

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,[9] 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,[10] 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 public domain.)

 
Imagination is mentioned in two other places,
Come into God's Presence and Prayer without Ceasing.
 

To find at bible passages you can use for meditation, see The Parables of Jesus, The Miracles of Jesus, and a list of synoptic gospel parallels at Matthew Mark and Luke.

 
 
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.
"We must have some definite subject of thought...[so it is good] to read either a text of Holy Scripture or a few lines out of some other holy book, for instance: 'The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius'" or the Imitation of Christ.

"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 other [person]."

"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, Archbishop of New York, 1908.

 
For material to use in meditation, look at Scriptural Maxims, Spiritual Food and Some sayings of the Fathers of Orthodox Christianity; also St. Alphonsus' Maxims for Attaining Perfection and Sighs of Love Towards God.
 
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..."

St. Alphonsus Liguori's Manner of Making Mental Prayer my be useful.

 
 See Vision 2000 for meditative, reflective material based on the daily readings in the lectionary. Also you might look at the Passionist Research Center, and its Cyberetreat.
 
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 Retreat House in Los Altos, CA is a wonderful facility and provides a good place for prayer and growth. (Even a full Ignatian retreat is available.) (I had an excellent retreat experience there in 1993.) The Archdiocese of Seattle offers retreats at the Palisades Retreat Center.
 
christ the judge
 
3. Art as a source of thought, meditation, and prayer
Christ the Judge with Mary his mother. Michelangelo's Last Judgment.
The Saint's in Michelangelo's Last Judgment
The Damned in Michelangelo's Last Judgment
The Angel's Trumpet at the Last Judgment
Fall and expulsion from Eden. From Michelangelo's ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
The Face of God. Symbols and Images of God the Father.
The Face of Christ. The Human face of Divinity. How Christ has been portrayed in art.
The Defeat of Evil. Raphael's St. George defeating the dragon.
The Church as the Boat of Peter, struggles while riding a hostile sea: Turner's Fishermen.
Giotto's St. Francis of Assisi Preaches to the Birds
Rembrandt: Three Trees, and Crucifixion.
Old Woman Praying, Nicolaes Maes. Giving thanks in all circumstances.
 
 
The Lord's Prayer
 

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 Way of 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.

 

There is an extensive discussion of the Lord's Prayer in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, at section two of part four, on Christian prayer, starting with sec. 2759. St. Thomas Aquinas says: " The Lord's Prayer is most perfect, because, as Augustine says (ad Probam Ep. cxxx, 12), "if we pray rightly and fittingly, we can say nothing else but what is contained in this prayer of our Lord." The Summa Theologica, II of II, Artl. 9, question 83. St. Thomas goes on to discuss various questions about the Lord's prayer in this article. Also, see the commentary of the Lord's Prayer based on the Catholic Catechism, and the Council of Trent's catechism. Also, Why we say Amen at the end of the Lord's prayer, or all prayer, by Luther. See the discussion on the Lords Prayer in About Traditional Basic Catholic Prayer, and Martin Luther's comment on this prayer.
 
"The Our Father contains all the duties we owe to God, the acts of all
the virtues and the petitions for all our spiritual and corporal needs."
-St. Louis de Montfort
 
The Lord's Prayer has been translated into 1221 languages and dialects.
See also, Father Marco Adinolfi's analysis of the Lord's Prayer and why it has been considered to be a summary of revelation; and the paraphrase of the Lord's prayer by St. Francis. St. Cyprian on why to use the Lord's Prayer.
 
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 dailyseed@resurrection.com and is being handled by http://onelist.com (Back to contents?)
AmericanCatholic.org: Minute Meditations
 
 
Contemplation
 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church also teaches we should go even further than meditation and seek knowledge of the love of Jesus and to seek union with him. Sec. 2708. Quoting St. Teresa of Jesus, the Catechism says contemplative prayer is nothing less than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us. Go to a brief description of contemplation, a.k.a. centering prayer.

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 of Quiet through grace, a step towards mystical union in the tradiional understanding of contemplation.)

 
"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.
 
Look at the suggestion by St. John Cassian and Abba Isaac.

This is the form of prayer encouraged by the great mystics, St. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila. You can see an explanation of contemplation as a result of Lectio Divina at the Monastic Primer provided by the New Malleray Abbey. See the Method of Centering Prayer by Thomas Keating. I would strongly recommend the set of tapes by Fr. Keating, "Contemplative Prayer". Keating's material and more are at Contemplative Outreach. An email of spiritual material comes from the Daily E-pistle from the Catholic Community Forum. You can subscribe at http://www.catholic-forum.com/e-pistle.html.

See also Gethsemani's page on Thomas Merton, at the Abbey of Gethsemani.  And see Thomas keating: The Practice of Attention/Intention.

 
"Contemplation goes beyond concepts and apprehends God not
as a separate object but as the Reality within our reality,
the Being within our being, the life of our life." Merton, The New Man.
 
"Contemplation is a mystery in which God reveals Himself as
the very center of our own inmost self." (ibid.)
Qutoed by Fr. James Conner, OCSO in "The Meaning of the Contemplative Life According to Thomas Merton".
 
 

Pope JohnPaul II has also seen the Rosary as linked to contemplation. See his Apostolic Letter on the Rosary.

 
"A path of contemplation

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 the "prayer of the heart" or "Jesus prayer" which took root in the soil of the Christian East."

 

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Getting Started in Prayer

St. Francis de Sales tells us: "Pray for your prayer's success."

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"poem Luke 18:13, "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me", or "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me", Luke 18:38. On a more 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 and evening or even other parts of the day, the Liturgy of the Hours is published in shorter versions than the ones used by priests. Look for the one volume edition or the even smaller one, Shorter Christian Prayer, at your Catholic 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. mental 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, 1908, p. 136. 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 as Relationship.

 
See About Short Prayer and Invocations, ejaculatory prayers.
 
The Power of Prayer
 
"[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." Tertullian on prayer (He lived and wrote about the year 160.)
 
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To pray, lift your mind and heart to God
Give Him your every hope and fear.
Let Him lift these great weights from you
And let your clouded vision clear.
(by Roger J. Smith)

If you have prayer requests, you can contact Maryknoll, the Christ in the Desert Monastery, the Assumption Abbey, The Prayer Line, the The Prayer Requests' page, and the Dominican Shrine of St. Jude in Chicago. Another group accepting prayer requests is The Taize Ecumenical Community in France. You can send a prayer intention card to someone through ewtn.com. The Resurrection House of Prayer has a prayer request page, and Prayers of Petition through the Society of the Little Flower.
Recall that Jesus said if two of you agree on anything it will be granted. Matt. 18:19-20.
 

For Catholic news, you can look at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops site, and the Catholic News Service. Don't forget the official web site of the Vatican, The Holy See or the Canadian Catholic Conference. (Catholic World News: subscription needed for full text

 
You can view news at the Indepenent Catholic News based in London and run by volunteer Catholic Journalists. (It is a new site, under development, and designed for those with older equipment in mind, such as those in developing countries.)
 
General Catholic related links : The Theological Library (excellent) take a look at their Directory of Catholic Directories, Catholic Pages, or check out the Top Fourty sites on the Catholic Internet, at the 1999 Catholic Internet Directory. Looking at Catholic Periodicals may also be useful. You can also check at EWTN, their library.
There is an extensive list of Books on Line on Christianity. The texts include material from all denominations and will include anti-catholic liturature, so caution is warented.
 
 
For additional links on prayer: Prayers, Catholic Resources for Educators with its page on prayer, The Theological Library on Spirituality, Popular Devotions, and prayer, Enchiridion of Indulgences (This is an official text that describes spiritually valuable prayer and gives the text of traditionally encouraged prayers.) See prayer links and the Gift of Prayer by Victor Hoagland, C.P. part of the Bread on the Waters Web Pages.
 
Prayers for the sick and homebound.
 
[ Yahoo! ]options
 

 


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