November 8, 2012

How Should I Pray?

Catechism Readings:  Paragraphs 2598 – 2696

These next few sections are on the how’s and why’s and even where’s of prayer.

“Jesus prays before the decisive moments of his mission.  2600   Jesus often prays apart in solitude, on a mountain, preferably at night. 2602   Two explicit prayers of Jesus were preserved by the evangelists.  Each begins with thanksgiving.  In the first, Jesus confesses the Father, acknowledges, and blesses him because he has hidden the mysteries of the Kingdom from those who think themselves learned and has revealed them to infants, the poor of the Beatitudes (Mt 11:25-7).  The second prayer, before the raising of Lazarus (Jn 11:41-42) is followed by Jesus adding: ‘I know that you always hear me,’ which implies that Jesus constantly made such petitions.  Jesus’ prayer, characterized by thanksgiving, reveals to us how to ask:  before the gift is given, Jesus commits himself to the One who in giving gives himself.  The Giver is more precious than the gift; He is the ‘treasure.’”  2603-4  

“From the Sermon on the Mount onwards, Jesus insists on conversion of the heart: reconciliation with one’s brother before presenting an offering on the altar, love of enemies, and prayer for persecutors, forgiveness from the depths of the heart. 2608   Once committed to conversion, the heart learns to pray in faith.  Faith is a filial adherence to God beyond what we feel and understand (belief without understanding).  2609    Jesus tells us to ask in His name.  ‘Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.’” 2615

Blessing expresses the basic movement of Christian prayer; it is an encounter between God and man.  2626   Adoration is the first attitude of man acknowledging that he is a creature before his Creator.  It exalts the greatness of the Lord who made us.  2628  (Prayer’s) most usual form, because the most spontaneous, is petition: by prayer of petition we express awareness of our relationship with God.  We are creatures who are not our own beginning, not the masters of adversity. 2929   The first movement of the prayer of petition is asking forgiveness.  It is a prerequisite for righteous and pure prayer.  Asking forgiveness is the prerequisite for both the Eucharistic liturgy and personal prayer.  2631   Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did.  He is the one intercessor with the Father on the behalf of all men, especially sinners. 2634  In intercession, he who prays looks not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others, even to the point of praying for those who do him harm.  2635   As in the prayer of petition, every intent and need can become an offering of thanksgiving.  The letters of St. Paul often begin and end with thanksgiving. 2638   Praise is the form of prayer which recognizes most immediately that God is God.  It lauds God for his own sake.  By praise, the Spirit is joined to our spirits to bear witness that we are children of God, testifying to the only Son in whom we are adopted and by whom we glorify the Father.”  2639 

“Prayer cannot be reduced to the spontaneous outpouring of interior impulse: in order to pray, one must have the will to pray.  Nor is it enough to know what the Scriptures reveal about prayer: one must also learn how to pray.  Through a living transmission (Sacred Tradition) within ‘the believing and praying Church,’ the Holy Spirit teaches the children of God how to pray.  2650   The Holy Spirit is the living water ‘welling up to eternal life’ in the heart that prays.  It is he who teaches us to accept it at its source: Christ.  Indeed in the Christian life there are several wellsprings where Christ awaits us to enable us to drink of the Holy Spirit:  The Word of God, The Liturgy of the Church, and through the theological virtues.  2652  The Church ‘forcefully and specially exhorts all the Christian faithful to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures.  … Let them remember, however, that prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture.  The spiritual writers, paraphrasing Mathew 7:7, summarize in this way the dispositions of the heart nourished by the word of God in prayer: ‘Seek in reading and you will find in meditating; know in mental prayer and it will be opened to you by contemplation. 2653-4   In the sacramental liturgy of the Church, the mission of Christ and of the Holy Spirit proclaims, makes present, and communicates the mystery of salvation, which is continued in the heart that prays.  The spiritual writers sometimes compare the heart to an altar.  2655   One enters into prayer as one enters into liturgy: by the narrow gate of faith.  The Holy Spirit, who instructs us to celebrate the liturgy in expectation of Christ’s return, teaches to pray in hope.  Prayer, formed by the liturgical life, draws everything into the love by which we are loved in Christ and which enables us to respond to him by loving as he has loved us.  Love is the source of prayer.  2656-8  Prayer in the events of each day and each moment is one of the secrets of the kingdom revealed to ‘little children.’” 2660

“’Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners.’  The invocation of the holy name of Jesus is the simplest way of praying always.  2667-8  Since he teaches us to pray by recalling Christ, how could we not pray to the Spirit, too?  That is why the Church invites us to call upon the Holy Spirit every day, especially at the beginning and the end of every important action.  2670   Jesus is the only mediator, is the way of our prayer; Mary, his mother and ours, is wholly transparent to him: she ‘shows the way, and is herself “the Sign” of the way’, according to the traditional iconography of East and West.  Beginning with Mary’s unique cooperation with the working of the Holy Spirit, the Churches developed their prayer to the holy Mother of God, centering it on the person of Christ manifested in his mysteries.  In countless hymns and antiphons expressing this prayer, two movements usually alternate with one another: the first ‘magnifies’ the Lord for the ‘great things’ he did for his lowly servant and through her for all human beings, the second entrust the supplications and praises of the children of God to the Mother of Jesus, because she now knows the humanity which, in her, the Son of God espoused.” 2675

“The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom, especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today.  When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were ‘put in charge of many things.’ (Mt 25:21)  Their intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan.  We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world.  2583   The Christian family is the first place of education in prayer.  For young children in particular, daily family prayer is the first witness of the Church’s living memory as awakened patiently by the Holy Spirit. 2685   Many religious have consecrated their whole lives to prayer.  Hermits, monks, and nuns since the time of the desert fathers have devoted their time to praising God and interceding for his people. 2687   The catechesis of children, young people, and adults aims at teaching them to meditate on the Word of God in personal prayer, practicing it in liturgical prayer, and internalizing it at all times in order to bear fruit in a new life.  The memorization of basic prayers offers an essential support to the life of prayer, but it is important to help learners savor their meaning.  Prayer groups, indeed schools of prayer, are today one of the signs and one of the driving forces of renewal of prayer in the Church.  2688-9   The Holy Spirit gives to certain of the faithful the gifts of wisdom, faith and discernment for the sake of this common good which is prayer (spiritual direction).  Men and women so endowed are true servants of the living tradition of prayer.” 2690  

“The church, the house of God, is the proper place for the liturgical prayer of the parish community.  It is also the privileged place for adoration of the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.  The choice of a favorable place is not a matter of indifference for true prayer.  For personal prayer, this place can be a ‘prayer corner’.  In regions where monasteries exist, the vocation of these communities is to further the participation of the faithful in the Liturgy of the Hours, and to provide necessary solitude for more intense personal prayer.  Pilgrimages evoke our earthly journey toward heaven, and are traditionally very special occasions for renewal in prayer.  2691

Next week we continue looking at prayer, focusing on the different expressions of prayer and of the difficulties in praying effectively.

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