In praying, we connect to God, who created us and is continually drawing us into His divine life.
Seasons of Prayer
“Teach us to pray,” we ask, as did the disciples of old. Yet prayer is more an attitude than a skill. It is more about our willingness to do it and less about how we go about it. Some guidance certainly helps, but it is important to know that there is no one right way to pray. Our prayer and prayer life will look different from that of others, depending on our personality, life experiences, and circum- stances. And we may find that what once t beautifully does not appeal anymore, for we have changed. Prayer changes us and changes with us. Prayer is an expression of our need to be in relationship with divine Love, here and now. Saint Augustine said it best: “Our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
Responding to the Divine
Prayer is integral to our Judeo-Christian heritage. Scripture reveals the Hebrew people as steeped in prayer. An entire book, The Book of Psalms, is dedicated to prayer. The Gospel accounts are full of references to Jesus praying. He prayed by himself and with others, in private and in front of thousands. He recited prayers from his Jewish heritage and offered his own. Prayer enabled Jesus to stay in tune with God the Father and gain strength for living his mission.
Liturgical and non-liturgical prayers of the disciples and the early Church were preserved and handed down through the centuries in historical documents such as the writings of the Church Fathers. Prayer is our sure way to connect to God who created us and is drawing us into the divine life.
Prayer can be a prelude to action or a response to unfolding events. Prayer is communication, with or without words.
Prayer is both listening to and responding to God’s invitation to be in relationship. Most of all, prayer is a state of being present to God.
Prayer is like a well-made tapestry that is tightly woven from yarns of different colors and types. The variation in these prayer threads creates an image, fosters multisensory engagement, and evokes a response.
Prayer comes in many forms and modes. Prayer can be communal or personal, verbal or silent, and it can involve movement, music, or stillness. It may rely on engagement with nature or emerge from the act of thinking; it may be the fruit of encountering others or going deep within ourselves. Prayer can be formulaic or freely composed; it may spring forth from memory, like prayers we know by heart, or it may be a new particular response to the moment.
Prayer is as varied as human beings are diverse. Whether we use silence, words, movement, music, the visual arts, or any combination thereof, prayer is an expression of our relationship with God.
A Prayer Practicum
Many Catholics find praying spontaneously in a group setting quite intimidating. They worry about finding the right words and putting them together to form a coherent prayer. While God surely sees what is in our hearts, it helps to have a few tools for expressing ourselves.
One formula that may ease anxiety about creating a prayer is ACTS.
A—adoration: “Almighty God, you are . . .”
C—contrition: “I am sorry for . . .”
T—thanksgiving: ”Thank you for . . .”
S—supplication: “I ask . . .”
Another formula follows the shape of the Collect prayers of the Mass: You-Who-Do-Through.
Who—Describe what God has done in the past
Do—Ask for God’s action now
Through—Finish with the Trinitarian formula: “Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.” Or “We ask this in the name of your beloved Son, Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.”
With some practice, these formulas will become second nature and will enable us to offer prayers under any circumstances.
In our personal prayer, we do not need to use formulas. We can talk to God as if to a friend, sharing our daily joys and struggles without keeping to a set pattern. Many of the prayers that follow fall into this category. Keep in mind that they represent only one side of the conversation that is prayer.
This is a selection from Prayer Book for Catholic Women, by Agnes Kovaks, (The Word Among Us Press, 2018). Available from wau.org/books