About Prayer


…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).

I raise my eyes toward the mountains.
From whence shall come my help? (Psalm 121:1 NABRE)

In the Old Testament God makes Himself known on a mountain, Mt. Horab in Exodus chapter 3. The people of Israel were slaves for 430 years in Egypt, and their help came from God and Moses, from the encounter the two of them had on Mt. Horab “the mountain of God” (Exodus 3:1). The writer of the Psalm is thinking back to that encounter, some 500 years earlier. Psalm 121 has a confidence to it. There is a strong assurance that God will help all those who ask. In my ministry to patients in Hospice Care, Psalm 121 is one of the prayers I pray with almost every patient. I especially pray this Psalm with patients in transition and those who are actively dying.

Looking to the mountains for God is different from looking to heaven for God. Heaven can seam so far away, and even incompressible. How do we, how can we, think of God in heaven? Thinking of God on a mountain makes our encounter with Him more real, more possible. Climbing to the top of a mountain seams possible, if we prepare and train. God wants an encounter with us, so He comes down from heaven and meets us on His mountain. We have to cooperate in this encounter, we need to give the effort to climb the mountain just as Moses did, and that climb starts by looking up at the mountain and seeing that God awaits us at the top.

Note: The analogy used here is that the effort we spend to climb a mountain is the effort we need to spend on prayer.

The Mount of the Transfiguration.

The Mount of the Transfiguration.

The mountain. What does this mountain signify? If we read the Gospel, we find various meanings. The mountain is, above all, the place where Jesus prayed, the place where he was alone with the Father. If we do not ascend this mountain of prayer, if we do not enter into the dialogue of Jesus with the Father, we cannot find him. The mountain is also the site of the Beatitudes, the new Sinai of the new law. The mountain is his word. To go to the mountain of Jesus means, then, to wander on the majestic mountain of his words. The mountain of the Transfiguration combines both these aspects: the Transfiguration takes place while Jesus is praying; but it is also the revelation of the true content of the books of Moses and of the Prophets. The voice of the Father is heard at this moment: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5).

Joseph Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, ed. Irene Grassl, (Ignatius Press, 1992), page 316.

My notes: Bold emphasis added by me.  The picture of the Mount of the Transfiguration is from the Logos Bible Software (Faithlife Corp.)

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