Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"How Do I Pray?"

Here are notes from my talk that started the discussion on prayer last night at the Newman Center.

“How Do I Pray?”

I.General question / points about prayer

What is prayer?
-“the rising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God” – St John Damascene

-many forms of prayer: liturgical, private, communal, prayer in action
- the Mass is the greatest prayer

-focus tonight is on private, mental prayer
- Conversation with God

How do I pray (in general)
=how do I talk to a friend
=how do I listen to a friend
=how do I spend time with a friend

I have called you friends” – Jn 15:15

II. Specific questions about prayer

-Like a friendship / relationship
-w/ stages

FG in 1st part of college: prayed only when I needed something; not a friendship with Christ

How do I pray?

A.As a beginner / beginning stage

1) Get to know God
-Go to where He’s revealed Himself to us:
Sacred Scripture (written word about God) – Bible
Sacred Tradition (oral word about God) – Catechism

-this is like when someone friend’s you on Facebook, you check out their profile (what they’ve revealed about them) to get to know them initially

2) make time to talk with God
-formal prayers (Our Father, e.g.)
-informal prayers (“Jesus, help me”…”Lord, I love you”)

3) make time to listen to God
-“speak, Lord, your servant is listening” (Samuel)
..not “listen, Lord, your servant is speaking” (!)

What if I get distracted?
-focus on the person of Christ
-don’t get discouraged (greatest tool of the Devil is discouragement)

Where do I pray?
-Nature / creation: “the first book God wrote” – Groeschel
- rosary walks, rosary in car, walk on beach talking to God, e.g.

-In our homes / “prayer corners”
-w/ Sacred Scriptures, icons, e.g.
when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret” (Mt 6:6)

-Church – best place to pray
-“privileged place of Adoration” (Catechism of Catholic Church, #2691)
-reserved + exposed adoration: be in the presence of Christ

STORY – Woman at the well
-first time in presence of Christ
-encounter that changed her heart / changed her life

B.As Intermediate

-stay with it; make habit
-even with distractions in prayer / at Mass
-person, friendship

-“watchfulness” (=’vigilance’ in U.S. w/terrorism)
-“in prayer, the disciple keeps watch” – CCC, #2612
-in specific prayer time and in habit of prayer

-“when Jesus insists on vigilance, he always relates it to himself, to his coming on the last day and every day: today. The bridegroom comes in the middle of the night” (CCC, #2730)

STORY – Mother Teresa
-ties in w/ quesrions:

What if I don’t ever feel God’s presence when I pray?
What if I feel that I’m all alone, and that God isn’t there with me?
-spiritual dryness (more common among advanced pray-ers)

-Recent book (how true?): her letters of past 60 years which show that for most of her life she did not feel the presence of God and even doubted the existence of God and heaven
-continued to pray constantly, keep watch daily
-even amid great spiritual agony, her friendship w/ Christ was rock-solid (faith was rock-solid)

-faith is key; faith-fulness
-in spiritual life / prayer life, there will be ups and downs, highs and lows, dry times and wet times…key is to be faith-ful

-“prayer…is a cry of gratitude and of love, in the midst of trials as well as amidst joys” – St Therese of Lisieux

C. As advanced

Meditation + contemplation (on handout)
-Theresa of Avila, John of the Cross (FG took class on them taught by Fr Dubay)
-meditation: put self into God’s presence
-contemplation: God infuses His spirit in us

STORY – FG w/ vocation
-ties in w/ question:

How do I hear God?
- thru prayer, Scripture, people, experiences

III. How do I pray (for something specific)?

1) Pray for “thy will be done”
-best / most prudent way to pray
-“what we are ultimately praying for in this third petition of the Our Father is that we come closer and closer to (God)” – PB XVI, “Jesus of Nazareth”, p.150
-constant prayer / intercession
-changes heart, see thing as God sees it
-what’s best for us, others = what we need

2) pray for what we need
-“we have the right and the duty to ask for what we need” – PB XVI, p.151

STORY: Conv. w/ friend who asked “why pray when God’s will is already set?”

1) Know God’s Will / needs
2) God’s Will can include our intercessory prayers (it’s complicated)
-Moses / Ex 32
-the Lord threatened wrath against the Israelites
-Moses implored the Lord – “let your blazing wrath die down; relent in punishing your people”
-“the Lord relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people”

-Moses’ prayer led to Lord relenting
-God’s Will was to relent in wrath / punishment
-God’s Will included Moses’ prayer

-God’s Will can include our petitions; be generous in praying for others!

What if my prayer isn’t answered?
Fr Byrne: one of three answers from God
1) Yes
2) Not now
3) Something better in mind

CCC (#2735-36)
-“we ought to be astonished by this fact: when we praise God or give him thanks for his benefits in general, we are not particularly concerned whether or not our prayer is acceptable to him. On the other hand, we demand to see the results of our petitions”
-“are we convinced that ‘we pray as we ought’?”
-the Spirit intercedes for us (cf. Rom 8:25-27) to help us to know how to pray (God’s Will)

How do I pray at Adoration?
STORY of Frenchman / Vianney
“I look at him and he looks at me”
-personal encounter (friendship)

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