Whenever we speak to God, whenever we open ourselves to God, we ourselves are renewed. when a person loses God, he can no longer be genuinely himself because he has lost the fundamental norm of his existence.

Joseph Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, Ignatius Press, 1992, page 101.


My Comments: So what Pope Emeritus Benedict is saying is that when we pray we become that being which we were created to be. For we were created for a relationship with our creator, and that relationship is revealed in the covenants within Bible as Father/son or Father/daughter. The fundamental essence of that relationship is to communicate, to pray.

We must renew the practice of speaking with God; however extensive our knowledge of other languages, we must relearn the noblest use of language—that of speaking with God. To do so, we must let ourselves be guided by the traditional Christian prayers already in existence. I would like just to mention here a prayerful phrase that is especially dear to me because it seems to embody the innermost foundation and the innermost core of every conceivable prayer. I am referring to the words “our Father”, which are the source from which all further prayer flows and by which it is sustained.

Joseph Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, Ignatius Press, 1992, page 97.

And it should be noted that Christ is said to have had three refuges; for sometimes He fled to a mountain, as said here; and it is written in John 8:1: “And Jesus went unto mount Olivet.” Sometimes He fled to a boat; “When the multitudes pressed upon him … going into one of the ships that was Simon’s … sitting he taught” (Lk. 5). And thirdly, sometimes He fled into the desert; “Come apart into a desert place” (Mk. 6:31).

St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew, trans. Paul M. Kimball (Dolorosa Press, 2012), page 139.

(My comments below)

In celebrating Lent, we try to imitate what Jesus did by his going out into the desert for 40 days of fasting and praying. As disciples of Jesus we also need to have a refuge (or two or three) where we can get away from the world and get closer to our God.  For example, in the summer I have a hammock in a shady spot of my backyard, where I go to read the Bible or theology books.  A more practical, your round suggestion is to visit a church. Most churches are open evenings, are quiet and are perfect places to pray. Jesus himself suggests for us to go into his house and pray: “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’” (Matt 21:13).

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

My spiritual director asked at our last meeting what special “thing” will I be doing for Lent (just as he does for Advent).  After praying about this for a few days I decided to start praying the “Jesus Prayer”.

Why this prayer?  It is grounded in Sacred Scripture, it is the combination of the confession of St. Peter “you are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16) with “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” (Luke 18:13).

This is a prayer of repetition, and there are a few versions of this prayer. The prayer above is the typical one, however the Gospel of Matthew is my specialty, and so I like the version that matches Matthew 16:16.  “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”  Note: The title “Son of God” is found 42 times in the New Testament, for a few examples see John 1:49 and 11:27. Another version: “Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me.”

The prayer can be done by itself, or with beads called “Chotki” or “Jesus beads”. The beads typically are in a count of 25, 50 or 100, with perhaps a Jerusalem cross, or a tassel at the start/end.  The Jesus prayer is also prayed using a standard Rosary.  The beads help to focus the mind on the prayer.  The Jesus Prayer can also be done using a breathing technique: inhale for “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God” and exhale for “have mercy on me, a sinner”.

Combining three things for focus: a quiet location, the beads, and breathing technique with the simple prayer derived from Sacred Scripture, can move prayer from being just memorized words to a prayer of love from the heart.

“Dear friends, I ask you to rediscover the importance of this path also for prayer, for our living relationship with God. Towns and villages throughout the world contain treasures of art that express faith and beckon to us to return to our relationship with God. May the visits to places filled with art, then, not only be opportunities for cultural enrichment — that too — but may they become above all moments of grace, incentives to strengthen our bond and our dialogue with the Lord so that — in switching from simple external reality to the more profound reality it expresses — we may pause to contemplate the ray of beauty that strikes us to the quick, that almost “wounds” us, and that invites us to rise toward God.”

Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, August 31, 2011

The Psalter appears as a “formulary” of prayers, a collection of 150 Psalms which the Biblical Tradition offers the people of believers so that they become their and our prayer, our way of speaking and of relating to God. This Book expresses the entire human experience with its multiple facets and the whole range of sentiments that accompany human existence.

In the Psalms are expressed and interwoven with joy and suffering, the longing for God and the perception of our own unworthiness, happiness and the feeling of abandonment, trust in God and sorrowful loneliness, fullness of life and fear of death. The whole reality of the believer converges in these prayers. The People of Israel first and then the Church adopted them as a privileged mediation in relations with the one God and an appropriate response to God’s self revelation in history.

(bold emphasis added by me…)

Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, June 22, 2011

Then the prophet Elijah arose like a fire, and his word burned like a torch.
(Sirach  48:1  RSV2CE)

Pope Benedict comments on Elijah’s ministry of prophecy and prayer, a ministry to the people of Israel for the purpose of converting their hearts: “…the primary aim of prayer is conversion, the flame of God that transforms our heart and enables us to see God and so to live in accordance with God and live for others.”

Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, June 15, 2011


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