“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” St Therese of Lisieux – CCC 2558
Prayer is a human expression of our attempt to relate to God. Praying is a devotion to and desire to communicate with the mystery that gives meaning to our lives. For Catholics, this mystery is God, revealed to us in the person of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.
We can engage with this mystery by being open to feeling the presence of God in a joyful moment, sitting quietly alone and ‘spending time’ with God in daily prayer or joining with others to pray. Our day-to-day activities, if done with God in mind and with good intentions, are prayer. There are different styles of prayer.
Through prayer, we acknowledge God’s power and goodness along with our own need and dependence. Prayer is an essential ingredient in all our efforts for a better world and for our own inner peace.
Prayer can help us make sense of our lived experiences which may be overwhelming in positive or negative ways. Reflecting in prayer empowers us to grow in confidence that whatever life may bring we are loved unconditionally by our Creator.
For Catholics, praying together clarifies our relationship with one another within the bigger context of our relationship with God. By gathering together to pray ‘in the name of Jesus’ we are part of ‘the body of Christ’. This links us to others beyond those physically assembled in the one place.
Why should we pray?
People pray for all sorts of reasons. Some pray to comfort themselves in troubling times and to acknowledge there is a spiritual dimension to life. But Christians pray for very specific reasons.
To be a Christian is to believe God invited you into a personal relationship with him and to accept that invitation.
Saying that you can experience being a Christian in the way God intended without learning to pray is like saying you can be happily married or have a deep friendship without regular communication.
But maybe the question is not why should Christians pray, but why should they want to?
Here are four great reasons why you might choose to pray:
- You want to tell God how much you love him and why.
- You need to say “I’m sorry” for specific actions or attitudes.
- You want to thank God.
- You want to bring a concern about your life or someone in your life to God and invite him to help.
If you have never really prayed before and you want to know what to say, these four reasons for prayer also provide a good template to start with. And if that’s you, we want to share about more of the essentials before we go any further.
How do we pray?
You can bow, kneel, stand or walk around when you pray. God will hear you whatever you do, so choose a position that helps you focus.
Kneeling, or bowing your head, is a great way to focus your body and your mind on God. It’s also a way to show how much you respect God.
What should I say?
Start by addressing God directly in a way that acknowledges the uniqueness of who he is.
People will say things like, “Father God,” “Heavenly Father” or “Almighty God.” How you choose to address him will remind you, and anyone you might be praying with, about who you are talking to and what he represents in your life.
Do I pray to God the Father, Jesus or the Holy Spirit?
This is completely up to you. Choose one or try praying to each member of the Trinity at different times, because they are all listening to you. The Holy Spirit is the presence of God living within you. So you can address him directly with confidence that he is as close as he can be.
Should I pray out loud?
Depending on how comfortable you feel or what kind of situation you are in, you will choose whether to pray out loud or silently. Over time, you will likely grow in your confidence praying out loud.
If you are praying for someone who is physically present with you, it might encourage them to hear your faith expressed through your prayers. But if you find praying silently allows you to focus more on God than on someone you might be praying with, go for it.
The one time most of us need to stop talking is when we are trying to listen to God. You will find it harder to hear what he is saying if you are doing all the talking.
When and where do I pray?
Anytime and anywhere can work, but it’s good to find a distraction-free time and place if possible. God deserves your focused attention, and you might find it harder to listen to him in a busy place.
Some people create a space in their homes for this purpose, like a prayer closet. Others will choose a favorite park to take time out with God, or even a coffee shop.
How do I end a prayer?
A common way to end a prayer is by saying something like, “In the name of Jesus, Amen.”
This common conclusion is a reminder of who this God is.
Whatever you choose to say can also act as a reminder that you believe God has heard your prayers and that you trust him to know how best to answer them.
If you’re the kind of person who starts talking to God as you go about your day, you don’t need to wrap up every communication with a formal ending for God to take you seriously. God is a Father who loves his children to talk to him as much as possible.
Word and Faith Groups
A number of parishes have established Word and Faith Groups, where a small number of people gather together to read and reflect on the readings for the following Sunday.
It is a valuable tool for those who are reading at Mass on the following Sunday, or for those who wish to develop a deeper understanding of the Scriptures, as you become more aware of the message and what God is saying to each of us in the readings.
It does not have to depend on the availability of the priest.
The format is simple
- Find a suitable meeting space, organise to meet at the same time each week, and start on time. The group coordinator provides a printed copy of the reading.
- When the group has gathered, recall that Jesus is already present as we gather in God’s name and will be present in a new way to all, when the Scriptures are read. Inviminute of silent prayer, as they open their hearts to God and pray for one another.
- One of the participants will read the Gospel, followed by a brief time of silent reflection.
- Invite people to repeat a phrase or a word in the reading that spoke to them.
- The same or another person reads the Gospel again.
- Invite people to share what the reading, or part of it, said to them. Remember – we are not asking for general commentary or explanation, but a personal response.
- If there is time, repeat this process with the first reading, explaining that it has been chosen to echo themes in the Gospel.
- If there is time, repeat this process with the second reading for the day.
- Close the meeting with the ‘Our Father’.
You will find that you will come to know and love the Scriptures more.
For more information about Word and Faith Groups, or to request help in the setting up of a group in your parish, please contact the Mission and Renewal Director on email@example.com or ph: (02) 6334 6400.
The daily readings can be found at www.universalis.com