“Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened.” The strongest one in Christ’s kingdom is he who is the best knocker. The secret of success in Christ’s Kingdom is the ability to pray. The one who can wield the power of prayer is the strong one, the holy one in Christ’s Kingdom. The most important lesson we can learn is how to pray.” E.M. Bounds, Purpose in Prayer, chapter 1.
Why do we pray? Why should we pray? What is prayer?
Prayer is a conversation between us and God. Prayer is how we talk with Jesus. Why pray? Talking with Jesus is how we get to know him better. It’s how we become intimate with him and through him know our Father (John 14 again). We pray to make ourselves open and vulnerable and let Jesus work in our lives.
Think about the worst thing you have ever done. Hopefully you’ve been to confession and been forgiven but think for a moment about how vulnerable you would be if you shared with a friend that thing you did? Now think about how excited you get sometimes and how uncool being excited about something is.
Think about your doubts. Think about how you look/seem to your acquaintances – your persona or image. What if you told them that wasn’t the real you, that you weren’t cool, that you weren’t that smart, that you weren’t that confident, that really you’re just scared and trying to get through high school without too much grief?
If you tell someone about your doubts or your excitement you have made yourself vulnerable to ridicule, anger, hate or ….
Jesus wants us to tell him about our fears, our doubts, our insecurities not because he’d be learning about them for the first time (he’s God, ya know?) but because by telling him we open ourselves up to be loved by him. And no one loves more deeply, more fiercely, more powerfully, more mercifully, more radically, than Jesus Christ. (See 1 John 4, John 3:16-17, Romans 5:6-8, Romans 8:35-39, and John 13:4-15).
And as we talked about last week, our Catholic faith is dependent on our personal relationship with Jesus. That relationship depends on our openness to his grace and love in our lives through our participation in the sacraments, particularly at Mass.
So the question then is: how do we pray? Let’s look at some Biblical examples of prayer.
Psalms were songs written by several different authors, including King David, Asaph (1 Chronicles 6:31-33, 39) and possibly others. They deal with a lot of different topics including grief, anger, fear or distress, confession, love, faith, thanksgiving and the trustworthiness of God.
Pope Benedict XVI recently said at an audience with pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, “These inspired songs teach us how to speak to God, expressing ourselves and the whole range of our human experience with words that God himself has given us… In these prayers, the Psalms are manifestations of the soul and faith, in which everyone can recognize and communicate the experience of a special closeness to God [i.e a personal relationship with Jesus] to which every man is called.”
Habakkuk was a prophet who questioned whether or not God was paying attention or cared about Judea anymore and then asked again why God looked on while ‘the faithless’ and wicked prosper. This is a great book to read if you’re having a hard time with the problem of evil.
The Magnificat (Luke 1: 46-55 – but start with vs. 39)
This is Mary’s hymn of praise to God, which she utters in response to Elizabeth. The focus of this hymn/prayer is just on praising God for his goodness, his greatness and his faithfulness and mercy towards Israel.
Simeon’s prayer (Luke 2: 25-28 – Simeon and Anna). Simeon’s prayer is again of thanksgiving and in this case prophecy.
In Part 2 of this segment I’m going to focus on the Our Father. In the meantime, here’s the conclusion:
The next step is to start to pray. A good model to follow in applying the Lord’s prayer to your daily prayer is to always start with thanksgiving and praise (hallowed be your name). Then begin to ask God for your needs, for your fears and for the strength to live a holy life today.
Each day try to take 5 minutes to pray to God and use this format:
Something for which I’m thankful….
For something that I need…
To hear His voice clearly…
And strength to live a holy life today.