December 4, 2012

Types of Prayer

Catechism Readings:  Paragraphs 2697 – 2776

(In case you noticed a slight gap in these catechism summaries, a friend’s illness took priority these last weeks.) 

This section of Christian Prayer focuses on the Expressions of Prayer, vocal prayer, meditation, and contemplative prayer.  It then moves on to what it describes as “The Battle of Prayer,” intending to show that starting --- and continuing --- in our prayer efforts is often not easy, but the rewards are great.

“The Tradition of the Church proposes to the faithful certain rhythms of praying intended to nourish continual prayer.  Some are daily, such as morning and evening prayer (which I try to do faithfully), grace before and after meals, the Liturgy of the Hours.  Sundays, centered on the Eucharist, are kept holy primarily by prayer.  2698   Christian Tradition has retained three major expressions of prayer:  vocal, meditative, and contemplative.” 2699
“Anyone who loves another person and all day long never gives that person a sign of his love does not really love him.  So it is with God, too.  Anyone who truly seeks him will keep sending him signals of his longing for his company and friendship.  Get up in the morning and give the day to God; thank him, especially at mealtimes; at the end of the day, place everything into his hands, ask him for forgiveness, and pray for peace for yourself and others.” YC 499

“Vocal prayer is an essential element of the Christian life.  (Jesus) prayed aloud the liturgical prayers of the synagogue but, as the Gospels show, he raised his voice to express his personal prayer. 2701   Because it is external and so thoroughly human, vocal prayer is the form of prayer most readily accessible to Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking.  The required attentiveness is difficult to sustain.  We are usually helped by books – the page on which the “today” of God is written.  2705   Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina or the Christian prayer should go further:  to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him.” 2708

“St. Theresa answers: “Contemplative prayer in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.”  Contemplative prayer seeks him “whom my soul loves.”  2709   Entering into contemplative prayer is like entering into the Eucharistic liturgy:  We “gather up” the heart, recollect our whole being under the prompting of the Holy Spirit, abide in the dwelling place of the Lord which we are, awaken our faith in order to enter into the presence of him who awaits us.  We let our masks fall.  2711   Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus.  The light of the countenance of Jesus illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men.  Contemplation also turns its gaze on the mysteries of the life of Christ.  Thus it learns the “interior knowledge of the Lord,” the more to love him and follow him.” 2715  

“Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part.  It always presupposes effort.  We pray as we live, because we live as we pray.  If we do not want to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ, neither can we pray habitually in his name.  2725   In the battle of prayer, we must face in ourselves and around us erroneous notions of prayer.  Many Christians unconsciously regard prayer as an occupation that is incompatible with all the other things they have to do:  they don’t have time.  Those who seek God by prayer are quickly discouraged because they do not know that prayer comes from the Holy Spirit and not from themselves alone.  2726   We must also fact the fact that certain attitudes deriving from the mentality of this present world can penetrate our lives if we are not vigilant.  For example, some would have it that only that is true which can be verified by reason and science; yet prayer is a mystery that overflows both our conscious and unconscious lives.  Others overly prize production and profit; thus prayer, being unproductive, is useless.  2727   Finally, our battle has to confront what we experience as failure in prayer; discouragement during periods of dryness; disappointment over not being heard according to our own will; our resistance to the idea that prayer is a free and unmerited gift; and so forth.  The conclusion is always the same:  what good does it do to pray?  To overcome these obstacles, we must battle to gain humility, trust, and perseverance.”  2728

“The saintly Cure of Ars once asked a brother priest who was complaining about his lack of success.  ‘You have prayed, you have sighed … but have you fasted, too?  Have you kept vigil?’  It could also be that we are asking God for the wrong things.  St. Teresa of Avila once said, ‘Do not pray for lighter burdens; pray for a stronger back.’”  YC 507

 “The habitual difficulty in prayer is distraction.  A distraction reveals to us what we are attached to, and this humble awareness before the Lord should awaken our preferential love for him and lead us resolutely to offer him our heart to be purified.  Therein lies the battle, the choice of which master to serve.  2729   Another difficulty, especially for those who sincerely want to pray, is dryness.  Dryness belongs to contemplative prayer when the heart is separated from God, with no taste for thoughts, memories, and feelings, even spiritual ones. This is the moment of sheer faith.”  2731

“The most common yet most hidden temptation is our lack of faith.  Sometimes we turn to the Lord as a last resort, but do we really believe he is?  Sometimes we enlist the Lord as an ally, but our heart remains presumptions.  In each case, our lack of faith reveals that we do not yet share in the disposition of a humble heart. 2732   Some stop praying because they think their petition is not heard.  “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (Jas 4:3)  If we ask with a divided heart, we are ‘adulterers’, God cannot answer us, for he desires our well-being, our life.  “Do not be troubled if you do not immediately receive from God what you ask him; for he desires to do something even greater for you, while you cling to him in prayer.”  2737

“When ‘his hour’ came, Jesus prayed to the Father. (Jn 43).  His prayer, the longest transmitted by the Gospel, embraces the whole economy of creation and salvation, as well as his death and Resurrection.  The prayer of the Hour of Jesus always remains his own, just as his Passover ‘once for all’ remains ever present in the liturgy of his Church.  2746  The prayer of the hour of Jesus, rightly called the ‘priestly prayer’, sums up the whole economy of creation and salvation.  It fulfills the great petitions of the Our Father.

THE OUR FATHER:  “Jesus ‘was praying at a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”’  In response to this request the Lord entrusts to his disciples and to his Church the fundamental Christian prayer.  2759   The Lord’s prayer is the most perfect of prayers … in it we ask, not only for all the things we rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired.  (St. Thomas Aquinas) 2763   The Sermon on the Mount is teaching for life, the Our Father is a prayer, but in both the one and the other the Spirit of the Lord gives new form to our desires, those inner movements that animate our lives.  Jesus teaches us this new life by this words; he teaches us to ask for it by our prayer.  The rightness of our life in him will depend on the rightness of our prayer.  2764   But Jesus does not give us a formula to repeat mechanically.  As in every vocal prayer, it is through the Word of God that the Holy Spirit teaches the children of God to pray to their Father.  Jesus not only gives us the words of our filial prayer; at the same time he gives us the Spirit by whom these words become in us ‘spirit and life.’” 2766

“This indivisible gift of the Lord’s words and of the holy Spirit who gives life to them in the hearts of believers has been received and lived by the Church from the beginning.  The first communities prayed the Lord’s Prayer three times a day, in place of the ‘Eighteen Benedictions’ customary in Jewish piety.  2767   In Baptism and Confirmation, the handling on of the Lord’s Prayer signifies new birth into the divine life.  Since Christian prayer is our speaking to God with the very word of God, those who are born  anew through the living and abiding word of God learn to invoke their Father by the one Word he always hears.  2769   In the Eucharistic liturgy the Lord’s Prayer appears as the prayer of the whole Church and there reveals its full meaning and efficacy.  Placed between the Eucharistic prayer and the communion, the Lord’s Prayer sums up on the one hand all the petitions and intercessions expressed in the movement of the epiclesis and, on the other, knocks at the door of the Banquet of the kingdom which sacramental communion anticipates.”  2770

The next set of catechism paragraphs begin the walk through the meaning of the words of the Our Father prayer.    

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