Fr. JOHN REDFORD
A step-by-step beginners’ guide to the Catholic faith
THE LIFE OF PRAYER
We saw in the very first talk how the Catholic religion is essentially about developing friendship with God, our loving heavenly Father. One of the most important ways in which we express our friendship with another person is by talking to them, and listening to them. Prayer, according to St Augustine, may be described as ‘conversation with God’.
Every Christian is strongly recommended to hold daily conversation with God, because we want to be conscious all the time of his loving presence, and ready to follow his wishes in the circumstances of our daily life.
Traditionally, Christians are encouraged to pray first thing in the morning and last thing at night, so that our first action of the day will be to say to God ‘thy will be done’ and the last action of the day will be to repose ourselves in the arms of the Father.
Morning and evening prayers (however long or short) are best done in the silence and secrecy of our own room. When we pray in secret, our heavenly Father will hear us in the personal secrecy of our hearts.
Our prayers should include simple praise of God for what he is and for what he has done for us; confession of our sins and failings, particularly those of the past day; prayers (‘intercessions’) for those we love, for those we find it difficult to love, and for our needs; and most important of all, adoration of God who fills us with his presence and with his love.
As to the form of our prayer, we may use set prayers (‘Our Father’, ‘Hail Mary’, ‘Glory be to the Father…’ ‘I confess…’), or quite informal talking to God. Most of us need a combination of set prayers and informal conversation with our heavenly Father, the set prayers helping us to formulate our thoughts, and informal conversation enabling us to express our personal ideas.
However, we must never forget that a most important element of prayer is simply being in the presence of God, and loving him without expressing any words at all. As the Cure d’ Ars said, ‘I looks at him, and he looks at me’. This form of simple adoration even goes beyond what we call ‘meditation’, which takes a religious idea and reflects upon it for a while.
Of course, not only morning and evening are for praying. It is good to take the opportunity of saying short prayers (‘Hail Mary…’, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God and Saviour, have mercy on me, a sinner’) during the day, or to pay a visit to Church and pray in the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
A good practice when possible is to join in public prayer, either daily Mass, or other prayers in Church. We should look upon the Church as our home.
Finally, we must not be discouraged when God does not seem to answer our prayers. Sometimes, like any good Father, he says ‘No’ or ‘Wait’ to our requests, because finally he knows what is best for us, knowing as he does the whole plan.
Lord, teach us to pray.