Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Learning to Pray

During the WYD trip I had a conversation with a girl who had been taught that there is no need to set aside time to pray because "life is a prayer". It is one of those phrases that trips so easily off the tongue and yet has no meaning. Prayer can be defined as conversation with God. If you've ever had to try to make small talk with a disinterested teenager you will know how difficult it is to have a conversation with someone whose mind is elsewhere. So prayer is also defined as the lifting up of the mind and heart to God.

It is simply a deception to say that life is a prayer. Instead we should say that in prayer we take hold of the life we live and present it to God in thanksgiving, praise, petition and also in sorrow for our faults and failings. Prayer is a vital part of our living as a 'priestly people'. In prayer we exercise our universal (as opposed to ministerial) priesthood.
In his homily during the WYD Mass the Holy Father encouraged the young people to pray:

"The grace of the Spirit, is not something we can merit or achieve, but only receive as pure gift. God’s love can only unleash its power when it is allowed to change us from within. We have to let it break through the hard crust of our indifference, our spiritual weariness, our blind conformity to the spirit of this age. Only then can we let it ignite our imagination and shape our deepest desires. That is why prayer is so important: daily prayer, private prayer in the quiet of our hearts and before the Blessed Sacrament, and liturgical prayer in the heart of the Church. Prayer is pure receptivity to God’s grace, love in action, communion with the Spirit who dwells within us, leading us, through Jesus, in the Church, to our heavenly Father. In the power of his Spirit, Jesus is always present in our hearts, quietly waiting for us to be still with him, to hear his voice, to abide in his love, and to receive “power from on high”, enabling us to be salt and light for our world".

To be men and women of prayer we need first to identify a time each day for our conversation with God. A time when we can be quiet and listen to the "still, small voice of God". Ideally, a time in the early morning before the day's activity begins and then perhaps another time in the evening when we can look back on what has happened. Sometimes this may require us to get up earlier or to disentangle ourselves from our afternoon or evening activities. That can be a good mortification: someone once said that the hardest button to press on the TV remote control is the 'Off' button!

Sometimes people say they don't know what to talk about when they set aside time for prayer. Often it's good to take a text like the Pope's homily perhaps reading a paragraph at a time and seeing what sort of conversation that leads to. For example, during his homily the Holy Father asked the young people a question that would lead to a very fruitful consideration in prayer:

"Dear young people, let me now ask you a question. What will you leave to the next generation? Are you building your lives on firm foundations, building something that will endure? Are you living your lives in a way that opens up space for the Spirit in the midst of a world that wants to forget God, or even rejects him in the name of a falsely-conceived freedom? How are you using the gifts you have been given, the “power” which the Holy Spirit is even now prepared to release within you? What legacy will you leave to young people yet to come? What difference will you make?"
It reminds me of one of the questions in "The Way", the book of spiritual considerations by St Josemaria which has helped millions of people learn how to pray:

"Don't let your life be barren. Be useful. Make yourself felt. Shine forth with the torch of your faith and your love. With your apostolic life, wipe out the trail of filth and slime left by the corrupt sowers of hatred. And set aflame all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you bear in your heart".

Pope Benedict himself goes on to speak to the young people as protagonists in the task of building a nw world and again his words merit our prayerful consideration:

"Empowered by the Spirit, and drawing upon faith’s rich vision, a new generation of Christians is being called to help build a world in which God’s gift of life is welcomed, respected and cherished – not rejected, feared as a threat and destroyed. A new age in which love is not greedy or self-seeking, but pure, faithful and genuinely free, open to others, respectful of their dignity, seeking their good, radiating joy and beauty. A new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy and self-absorption which deaden our souls and poison our relationships. Dear young friends, the Lord is asking you to be prophets of this new age, messengers of his love, drawing people to the Father and building a future of hope for all humanity."


Anonymous said...

Great postings Father from WYD - thank you and God Bless you - female discerner/sometime commentator to this blog.

Jackie Parkes said...

Great post Fr..