Prayer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Questions and Answers about prayer

Are there right and wrong ways to pray?

Think of all the ways that people communicate with one another: Post-its, cell phones, fax machines, letters, e-mail, voice mail, movies, videos and of course, the old reliable telephone. All are ways in which we enhance the most basic form of communication-talking. At times, some are more appropriate than others. A wedding invitation is usually not faxed, and love letters are normally not written on Post-its. But in a pinch, any method will do.
Prayer is much the same way. There is no right or wrong way to pray. We approach God in prayer, in different ways, at different times in our life. Sometimes our prayer is spontaneous and free flowing; other times, it is more formal and communal. Memorized prayers may bring us more comfort and new experiences of prayer may help us with a deeper insight into God. The situation, setting, and our emotions will determine what fits best.
If there is a general “right way” to pray, it would probably be that our prayer be genuine, heartfelt and done with love and confidence. Even in our darkest hours, the Lord is present with us. We may not feel as though we do things in the best possible form, but in life’s hard pinch, any way will do. Just remember to bring the most important thing to prayer: yourself.

©2009 Liturgical Publications Inc

Used with permission

What happened [over] fifty years ago  that eventually led to a renewed and significantly changed Catholic church?

January 25 is the feast of the conversion of St. Paul, the premier apostle of Christ’s message to the world. For over one hundred years, the day has also celebrated the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Begun by the Graymoor Fathers of Garrison, New York, in 1908, the entire week actively promotes Christian unity through prayer, dialogue, and action among the various Christian denominations.
On this day fifty years ago, newly-elected Pope John XXIII was celebrating the close of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at the basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. Upon concluding the Eucharist, he announced to the few gathered cardinals that he planned to call a council of the universal church for the purpose of promoting church renewal and advancing church unity.
The reaction of the cardinals was one of stunned surprise. They were not expecting anything like this from a seventy-eight-year-old pope. Yet Pope John was not deterred as he pressed for preparations to make the council a reality. After three years of preparations, the Second Vatican Council officially convened on October 11, 1962. John, attributing the council to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, promoted the council as a “New Pentecost” intended to strengthen and renew the universal church.
How have the effects of the council been a source of strength and renewal for you?

©2008 Liturgical Publications Inc, New Berlin, WI 53151

Used with permission

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I’m trying to teach my twin two-year-olds about praying. What would you recommend in terms of how to approach this from a Catholic perspective? Are there things I should do or know about before introducing them to prayer?

I am not an expert in young toddlers, but I would assume that two-year-old kids are not quite ready for detailed explanations about prayer. But they are ready to see and imitate some basic practices of faith. Making the sign of the cross, folding their hands, saying grace before meals, using holy water are all things kids learn quickly.
When they go to church, they understand that it is “God’s house” and know they must be attentive. Regular attendance at Mass helps them to be familiar with the church and seeing the people who are there. Music is a great opportunity for children to learn. Even if the children cannot pronounce the words, encourage them to hum along when everyone else is singing.
These are important ways in which parents give witness to their faith and teach by example. There is an old proverb that says, “No one can give what he does not have.” So for parents especially, having a relationship with God, having a good prayer life is the most important way that we teach children how to pray. Religion is best caught, not taught!

©2009 Liturgical Publications Inc

 Used with permission

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I know I should pray to God, but lately when I do, it seems like my prayers are getting stuck on the ceiling. Does Scripture say God will respond to my prayers?

What the Bible tells us, line after line and book after book, is that God loves us. He listens to us and he accepts our love and sacrifices. God’s response is not one of just answering a prayer, but rather giving himself to us, in word and sacrament, so that he abides with us always. God himself is the answer to our prayers. The reason we pray is not to get answers, but to be closer to God, aware of his presence and love. With confidence, we believe that God has a purpose and mission for each of us, that he guides us daily as we seek to please him in all that we do. He knows our needs before we voice them and in love, he responds. Our prayer helps us be open to God, to follow him and love him wherever that may lead.
There are those times in our spiritual life when we are dry, and it does feel like our prayers are stuck on the ceiling. In those moments we learn our dependence on God for life and grace. We feel in our souls how much we need God to make sense of things and to guide us on our way to heaven. We ask, we seek and we knock. In his time and way, God responds, not just with the simple answer to prayers, but with the care of a loving Father. We are given so much more than we ask.

©2009 Liturgical Publications Inc

 Used with permission

What is the history and significance of prayer postures?

There is a lot of talk these days about body language and how we communicate feelings, thoughts and moods by the way we position our body. Spiritual practices have intentionally used various postures and gestures in prayer. Our physical position and gestures are symbolic as well as efficacious. They not only point to a greater reality (symbolic) but also really help put us in tune with God and our spiritual selves (efficacious).
Prayer postures also help us focus on our prayer. Many great spiritual directors saw the connection between the body being at peace and the inner self also being at peace. One necessarily affected the other. The body is part of the expression of prayer. So when we kneel we express reverence. When we pray with open hands, we are in a posture of acceptance and openness. When we are prostrate, we are in a posture of supplication. When we sit, we are in a posture of listening. Dancing expresses great joy while hands folded over one’s face focuses our attention and blocks out distractions.  Other gestures and positions maybe meaningful as you pray. St. Ignatius said that movement in prayer indicates the moods and changes that occur when a person prays. With prayer, it’s not just in our heads, but in and through our whole being-body, mind and soul!

©2009 Liturgical Publications Inc

Used with permission

The month of October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary. What is the origin of the rosary prayer and beads?

Several explanations for the origin of the rosary exist. The most popular is that Our Lady gave the rosary to St. Dominic (1170-1221) who promoted it during his lifetime. The devotion caught on leading to today’s rosary prayer. Others trace the roots of the rosary to a much older practice.

In the early Church, people took seriously Paul’s injunction to pray always. One significant tradition centered on the daily praying of psalms. Once the monastic tradition was established, the whole day became structured around the praying of the psalms, known today as the liturgy of the hours. On a regular basis, all 150 psalms were recited in a structured sequence.

Other Christians wishing to imitate this spirituality were often hampered by their inability to read or memorize the psalms. As time went by, Christians wishing to participate in this monastic prayer tradition began reciting prayers they knew by heart such as the Our Father and the Hail Mary. They kept track of their prayers either with pebbles or with knots tied into a rope. This form of prayer became known as the “poor person’s Psalter.”

Eventually the prayer tracking took the form of a string of beads. Later, the focus of the prayer led to meditation on the events in the lives of Jesus and Mary. In this way, the current practice of meditating on various mysteries of the rosary developed.
How do you assure constancy and frequency in your prayer life?

©2007 Liturgical Publications Inc, New Berlin, WI 53151

Used with permission

Why do we pray to saints?

We really don’t pray to saints as much as we ask them to pray with and for us. In the same way we ask other people to pray for us, we ask saints for their intercession and their spiritual assistance. So that just as I ask my friend to pray I can also call upon St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Francis de Sales, St. Theresa, St. Francis and ask their intercession and their prayers. We believe that because the saints are already in heaven they have a special intercessory power. They are close to our Lord and can petition him on our behalf for the graces and needs that we have.
But why ask the saints for prayer? Why do we believe it is possible? One of the four marks of the church (that we pray in the Creed) is that the church is one. The church-past, present and future-is united in faith, purpose and mission. We are united by Christ’s love from which we are never separated. We are one body and in him all time and all people are united. This is the great communion of saints that highlights the unity of the body of Christ. As members of the body we pray and worship together, with and for one another. During the Mass, in the preface we often pray, “With all the angels and saints we offer our prayer of adoration as we say…” When we pray, we do so in union with the whole church: saints and sinners, present and past, in solitude or community. We are one.

©2009 Liturgical Publications Inc

Used with permission

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