Prayer Life

(updated 5/14/2010)


What is prayer? Why is prayer so important?

To help us understand prayer, let’s evaluate the meaning of friendship.

How are friendships started? How are they maintained? What makes a good friend good? (Ask them to describe).

What is the most important aspect of a friendship?

The most important aspect of a friendship is . . . communication.

How can you be friends with someone you never talk to?

** How can we be friends with God if we never communicate with Him? **

If you're not feeling close to God right now, did you ever stop to think about the reason why?

When was the last time you prayed?


What is Prayer?

"Prayer is conversation with God." (3)

Like any conversation, it goes both ways. We talk to God, and He talks to us.

God loves us more than we can imagine, and He wants us to get to know and love Him as a Father. God wants to spend time talking to his children (3)


What kind of conversation am I supposed to have?

Imagine that someone saved your life through an act of great personal sacrifice. What kind of conversation would you have with that kind of Benefactor?

You would no doubt want to offer a thank you. You would be eager to praise the person’s kindness. You would probably ask, “How can I ever repay you?” (3).

Now think about what God has done for us? He created us and gives us life. Every good gift we have is from Him.

What kind of conversation should you have with that kind of Benefactor? For starters, you can express to Him sincere praise and thanks (3).


Doesn't Prayer include asking for something?

Of course! Think of a child who is hungry. If the child comes to Daddy asking for food, he’s delighted to answer that request. If human fathers know how to give good gifts to their children when asked, “how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11)


9 "And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
10 For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
11 What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish?
12 Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
13 If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?" Luke 11:9-13


Most of the Our Father is devoted to this important aspect of prayer: petition. We ask God to provide for us (“our daily bread”), guide us (“lead us not into temptation”), and protect us (“deliver us from evil”).

God cares about us and He’s delighted to answer our prayers. Just tell God what you need.


What about praying for others?

Another important aspect of praying we can't forget is intercession, which is prayer for others. St. Paul urged that intercessions "be made for all" (1 Timothy 2:1).

Everyone has some need for God's help. It's your privilege to ask for it on their behalf. Even if you know that they themselves are praying, you can join them in their requests (3). Our Heavenly Father is pleased to see His children helping one another in this way (3).

When you pray for others, you find that your own life changes. Your heart grows warmer toward people in need (3). You're not as upset by the difficulties in your own life, because you're more aware of the troubles other people have (3). You find yourself more willing to help people in other ways as well (3).


Does God always hear our prayers?

We can have the same confidence Jesus had when He prayed: "Father . . . I [know] that you always hear me" (John 11:42). And God not only hears our prayers; He answers them (3).

Sometimes, God answers our prayers in ways we don’t expect (3).

Sometimes, God answers our prayers with “No” or “It’s not yet time”.

Sometimes we ask for the wrong things - things we would regret having if He gave them to us(3). For example, what if we asked for lots of money and we did not yet have the maturity to use or spend it wisely. Most likely we would waste it or end up using it in a way that would harm ourselves or others.

Sometimes what we want does doesn't fit into the bigger, wiser plan God has for us and for those around us. Sometimes He's allowing us to develop patience or to grow in some other way(3).

In any case, we can always pray to God in faith (3). That doesn't mean we try to convince ourselves that everything we ever ask for, we'll receive. Instead, it means that we pray with trust in God who listens to our prayers, confident that He wants what's best for us; He knows what’s best for us; and He's able to give us what's best for us. Our prayers should always ask for God's will.



How do I find the right words to pray?

God listens even when we’re not sure what ot say. Catholic soften pray using composed prayers. It’s called formal prayer, because it has a set “form,” raither than being spontaneous (3).

Jesus gave us a formal prayer when He taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus and His apostles used formal prayers in worship, often from the Psalms, because this was the ancient custom of the Jewish people (3).

When Catholics pray using the words given us in Scripture and Tradition, we are guided by these formal prayers as we search for words to express ourselves to God (3).

An easy way to remember the different kinds of prayer is the acronym ACTS:
A= adoration “We praise you Oh Lord”
C= contrition “Lord forgive me”
T = thanksgiving “Thank you Oh Lord”
S = supplication “Lord, please help me”


How do I know when God is talking?

First, it's important to give Him time to talk, a few quiet moments when you're listening for Him (3). On those occasions you may have thoughts or impressions come into your mind from GOd: a word of comfort, a solution to a problem, a prompting to take a particular action (3).

There are other ways to listen to God as well. Reading Scripture or helpful spiritual books may allow Him to speak to you through the printed word (3). God may speak through others who say that you came to mind during their own prayer time. Sometimes God simply answers you through situations, opening one door and closing another (3).

If you think God is saying something that puzzles or disturbs you, it's a good idea to talk it over with a priest or another trusted friend (3).


When should I pray?

We can pray anytime, of course, since God is always listening (3).


Conclusion

The best way to learn more about prayer is to just do it. God is eager to talk with you. Make a habit of spending some time to talk with God consistently, everyday (3). A life filled with prayer will, without a doubt, enrich your life abundantly.




References

1) New Advent Online Catholic Encyclopedia http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12345b.htm

2) Prayer -Prove It! Series, by Amy Welborn. Our Sunday Visitor Publishing 2002 pp. 7-9.

3) How to Pray as a Catholic, Our Sunday Visitor Pamphlet. Inventory #: P144