Livin' on a Prayer [Parishioner Reflection]

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 Have you ever found it hard to pray? If so, I’ve shared your struggle. But perhaps the bigger problem is not difficulty praying, but not bothering with the enterprise to begin with. And what is prayer anyway? It can mean many things to many people. In a sense, it is a different thing for each person, just as your relationship with your mother is different from your relationship with your father, or your spouse, or your children.

Prayer, at its core, is simply keeping up a relationship with God. It is getting acquainted, growing in love, talking with Him. It is no different from any other human relationship in that way, but of course it is not a relationship among peers, but rather between Creator and creature.

But, you may say, we live in the twenty-first century: the age of the smartphone, social media, and instant communication. When you can have any song, any text message or email, any piece of juicy information accessible on your social media feed, or the answer to any Google search all at your fingertips, why is it necessary to put the smartphone away for a few minutes and talk to God?

As many contemporary authors have shown, our present state of smartphone addiction—of needing to check a screen compulsively, like pulling the handle on a slot machine one more time, or having that third, or fourth, or fifth drink—is enslaving, not liberating. Simple social science has shown that we were created for something more than a screen. While they may not point to it, that desire we have within ourselves for something greater, for the greatest thing possible, can only logically be fulfilled by God, who is all great, all good, all knowing, and all loving.

"Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

So C.S. Lewis famously argues in his masterpiece, Mere Christianity.

But back to prayer. Deep down inside, if we reflect carefully enough, we will sense our need for God and our need to communicate regularly with him. How does this translate into everyday life?

It is helpful to keep in mind the various kinds of prayer. An obvious kind of prayer is what is called vocal prayer. Even if you’re not familiar with the term, it’s likely you’ve prayed some of these before: the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be, the Act of Contrition.

Yet Catholics can sometimes be accused of simply mumbling their prayers, rattling them off like half-hearted wizards placing a spell on something: reciting some other-worldly incantation without knowing what it means or really saying it from the heart.

This need not be, of course. Some saints have been known to pray the words of the Our Father for hours, relishing every syllable and elevating their minds and hearts to the Father whom they invoke almost perfectly.

Yet for the rest of us who are still on our journey to sanctity, it is helpful to practice not just vocal prayer, but also mental prayer. And what is mental prayer? It is planned conversation with God, time set aside to converse with Him and contemplate His goodness and love.

Every morning, I schedule in 20 minutes for my time of prayer. I use a brief meditation on the Gospel passage of the day (called iPray with the Gospel) and sometimes a brief biography of the saint of the day. I also have list of intentions to pray about, to ask God’s help with, and people I would like to pray for. But for those 20 minutes, the centerpiece is silent conversation with God.

I find it easiest to facilitate all of this when in a church or chapel with the Blessed Sacrament before me. God is everywhere, but He’s present is a special and real way in the Eucharist in our churches. Of course, this isn’t always possible, so any quiet area where I’ll be undisturbed will do.

I encourage you to try it!

Maybe 20 minutes is too much to begin with, but how about 10? Even 5 minutes every day for a month would be an excellent start. And who can honestly say he or she doesn’t have 5 minutes to spare?

Keep in mind also that while you’re dedicating certain time each day exclusively for prayer, every moment of your life, waking and sleeping, is an opportunity for union with God. A good son or daughter is defined by his or her relationship with the Father and it does not end when off to work, to play, or to rest.

Praying brief aspirations or phrases can help us keep close Our Lord throughout the day: “Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you!” “Lord, that I may see.” Or a favorite of mine (while walking up or down the stairs): “That He must increase, and I must decrease!”

“Remain in me, and I in you.” So says the Lord to us in John’s Gospel. And so may we say to Him each day through the life we choose to live our lives.

 

~ Chris Spellman

Comments

  • Holy TrinityPosted on 5/17/19

    Thanks, Mary and Connie! I checked out the Echo Prayer app and it looks good! Thanks for the tip!

    Chris Spellman

  • Connie DeanPosted on 5/16/19

    Thanks, Chris, for this well written piece. I also use an app called Echo which I use to set up both prayers and reminders. When I tell someone that I will pray for them, I want to mean it and not forget.

  • Mary skpowskiPosted on 5/16/19

    Beautifully written and thought provoking.
    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.
    God bless you

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