About Prayer


I have been leading/teaching Bible Study classes for my parish since 2011. My most recent class was St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians.  It was an eight-week study and the last three of my talks were recorded.  The main purpose of this talk is to teach people how to pray by looking at how St. Paul prays.  

My talk notes are here:

And the youtube video is here. It is 30 minutes.

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Are you struggling to find the words to pray? Not knowing what to say or how to say it?
Prayer is a part of our spirituality, it is part of our relationship with God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Just start by saying hello “Good morning God, thank you for the new day.”, tell God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), that you love Him. Prayer can be that simple.

Second, ask God for help with your prayer (pray about your prayer). Dormant does not mean dead. No matter how long it has been since the last time you prayed, today is a good time to restart a life of prayer. Start with something simple “Jesus, I love you”.

A personal note: the same principles can be applied to my dormant (six months) blog. It is time for me to restart my writing.

O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his mercy endures for ever! Psalm 106:1

 

…every event and need can become an offering of thanksgiving. The letters of St. Paul often begin and end with thanksgiving, and the Lord Jesus is always present in it:

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”; 1 Thessalonians 5:18;

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”Colossians 4:2

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), #2638.

 

My notes:  I sometimes seams like all we ever do in prayer is ask for things. Which is fine, a prayer of petition is good. We need to also include prayers of thanksgiving as part of our personal relationship with God our Father, Jesus our Brother and the Holy Spirit.

You are my God; have mercy on me, O Lord,
for to you do I cry all the day. (Psalm 86:2-3)

1. No greater gift could God have given to men than in making His Word, by which He created all things, their Head, and joining them to Him as His members: that the Son of God might become also the Son of man, one God with the Father, one Man with men; so that when we speak to God in prayer for mercy, we do not separate the Son from Him; and when the Body of the Son prays, it separates not its Head from itself: and it is one Saviour of His Body, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who both prays for us, and prays in us, and is prayed to by us.

St. Augustine of Hippo, “Expositions on the Book of Psalms,” in Saint Augustin: Expositions on the Book of Psalms, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 8, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1888), pages 409–410.

My Notes: Our prayer to the Father for mercy is the one same prayer of Jesus to the Father for the same mercy. Jesus prays with us, we have the same prayer: mercy.

… as we forgive those who trespass against us

Now—and this is daunting—this outpouring of mercy cannot penetrate our hearts as long as we have not forgiven those who have trespassed against us. Love, like the Body of Christ, is indivisible; we cannot love the God we cannot see if we do not love the brother or sister we do see (See 1 John 4:20). In refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters, our hearts are closed and their hardness makes them impervious to the Father’s merciful love; but in confessing our sins, our hearts are opened to his grace.

Catechism of the Catholic Church #2840

My Notes:
Our prayer to receive mercy from Our Father in Heaven is bound together with our prayer in which we give mercy to our brothers and sisters here on earth.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner.

We can pray for and should pray for mercy, but what is mercy?

“Mercy. God’s loving care for all creatures, especially human beings, which invites us, in turn, to empathize with and alleviate the misery of others.”
Gerald O’Collins and Edward G. Farrugia, A Concise Dictionary of Theology (New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2013), page 152.

We can also learn from Jesus as He teaches about this: “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13) For Jesus wants us to have loving care for Him, by us showing and giving loving care for our brothers and sisters. This care/mercy for others is accomplished in the corporal works of mercy (feeding the hungry…) and also praying for others. We should both pray for ourselves and others to receive mercy.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on my family.

Perhaps the most humbling aspect of the attempt to engage in prayer is the difficulty of controlling one’s thoughts. Yet the mercy of God is revealed in the divine patience toward such failures of attention (Explanation Of The Psalms. Ps. 85.7). In fact, the very difficulty, even impossibility, of controlling thoughts Augustine considered to be evidence of the necessity of grace (On The Gift Of Perseverance. 8.19–20).

Rebecca H. Weaver, “Prayer,” ed. Allan D. Fitzgerald, Augustine through the Ages: An Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), page 673.

My notes:
The above quote (bold emphasis added by me) concerns the mental focus we need to learn so we can pray better. Two of the additional attributes of disciple that St. Augustine teaches are:

1) Pray at set times. Not at just one time of the day, but multiple times through the day.
2) Use short prayers. Two good examples are:

a) The Jesus prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
b) The Doxology – “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.”

So ask Jesus for the grace necessary to focus better when you pray (pray for help to be better at prayer).

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