Prayer

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2559) states, “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.”

 

Why We Pray

Prayer can be calling upon God for assistance. God desires closeness with us, an intimate relationship. Prayer is communication with God that allows our relationship with Him to develop and grow.

"For me prayer is a surge of the heart, it is a simple look towards Heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy." - Saint Therese of Lisieux

Everyone is called to live a “vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2558

 

We can pray alone or with others; we worship together as parish communities at Mass and pray as families. Prayer can be public or private. It can be formal or spontaneous. There are many types of prayer and many different styles of worship, but all center on living and experiencing our relationship with the living God. Each person can develop his or her own style, routine, and rhythm of prayer. Prayer is an essential component of being a Catholic. Prayer helps us form a sense of security and a deeper awareness of our dependence on God.

Basic Forms of Prayer

                                                                                 

Prayer of Blessing and Adoration

In this prayer we express praise and honor to God. We praise God for giving us life, for the wonder and beauty of our world, and for all the many blessings we enjoy. We open ourselves up to praise God for all the wonders of creation. This form of prayer encourages bodily expression, such as standing with arms raised or dancing.

Prayer of Petition

This is probably the most familiar prayer form of prayer. We are often taught to ask God for the things we need, but asking and praying for them are not necessarily the same. When we pray our petitions, we are asking God, who loves us very much, for something that we believe is good—for ourselves or for others. By using this form of prayer we are mindful of the needs of others as well as of our own needs. We are aware that God wants us to bring our problems and worries to prayer knowing that he will always hear and answer those prayers. God may answer our prayers in a different way and in a different timeframe than we are seeking but God will always give us what we need.

Prayers of petition serve to remind us that God expects us to care for one another and for all his creation. We can pray about the ordinary experiences of life— for people who are sick, for someone who needs a job, for help in our school work, for a safe trip. We pray for peace in our families and in our world. We can also express our sorrow and contrition to God in our prayer.

Prayer of Intercession  

This form of prayer is prayer on behalf of others. This form of prayer can be a source of blessing upon others, the Church, and our world. Because we know that Our Lady and the saints intercede for us before God, the Church encourages us to pray to them for their intercession. Such prayer can bring us great strength and courage and also great peace of mind and heart.

Prayer of Thanksgiving

This form of prayer helps us to be grateful for God's many blessings, spiritual and temporal, and helps us to recognize and appreciate all the good things God gives to us. Reserving some time to praise and thank God for his gifts—the gift of life; the gift of our families and friends; the gift of food, clothing, and shelter; and the numerous other gifts we often take for granted—helps us to form a true spirit of gratitude.

 

   

 

Tips for Praying

  1. Find a quite place and time. Prayer can be done anywhere but it is good to have a place that is conducive to relaxing and focusing our attention on God. Finding a regular time to pray each day can also be helpful to making prayer an important daily routine.
     
  2. Calm yourself and put away distractions. It is important to be relaxed when we pray by finding a comfortable posture.
     
  3. Use formal prayers or speak what you feel to God, or a combination of each. It is important to note that there is no “right” way to pray. Experiment with styles and forms of prayer. Prayer is an ongoing, developing relationship with God.
     
  4. Take time to listen. God does speak to us in prayer but we need to listen with our hearts. Be open to what God is telling you rather than just on what you want to or expect to hear.
     
  5. Use the Bible in your prayer.
     
  6. Keep a journal of prayer.
     
  7. Have a proper attitude. Prayer requires openness to God and a desire to worship and get to know God better.   

 

                                                                 

 

How Do We Pray With Our Imagination?

 

This is the type of prayer that Fr. Barry often uses in his homilies.


We meet new friends and we want to get to know them better. How do we do it? We share our stories. We tell them about our childhood, how we met our spouse or how our great-grandparents moved here.

We live in a rational, left brain world with global technology at our fingertips. Yet as human beings, our soul is still fired by color and imagination. Our minds are storehouses of images and memories and through them God works in our hearts. Praying with our imaginations can create a deeper and more personal intimacy with Jesus, Mary, the disciples and others written about in scripture. We can take the familiar stories we know and let them flow through our own imagination and see where the Lord guides it.

Using the imagination in prayer has been a treasured tradition in prayer for centuries. It prompted St. Francis of Assisi to encourage people to create nativity scenes at Christmas, to imagine the Holy Family as people like we are. Four hundred years later, St. Ignatius of Loyola used imaginative prayer as a key part of his life-transforming Spiritual Exercises.

How do we start? First we get settled in a comfortable chair and in a quiet place where we won’t be distracted. Our first gesture might be to open our hands on our lap, and to ask God to open our hearts and imaginations.

Then pick a story out of scripture. Read through it once slowly and put it down. Now we begin to imagine the scene as if we are standing right there. What is around me? Who else is there? What do I hear in the scene? If I am in a house, what noises are in the house or in the street outside? What are the smells I can pick up?

Now we begin to imagine the scene we read about. Who is in it? What conversation takes place? What is the mood – tense? joyful? confused? angry?

Feel free to paint this picture in any way your imagination takes you. If we worry about historical accuracy, it can be a distraction that takes us away from prayer. This isn’t scripture – this is letting God take our imaginations and reveal to us something of the intimate life of Jesus or others. If, in our prayer, Mary pulls the toddler Jesus onto her lap to tie his shoes or zip his coat, we can let it happen that way. We don’t want to fret about the historically accurate kinds of food served at a dinner or what kind of carpenter tools Joseph might have really had in his workshop. Here is an experience of prayer that lets our imaginations free themselves from anything that limits them. This is God revealing himself to us.

It helps if we imagine Jesus and his disciples as the real people they were who walked the earth. St. Ignatius imagined that the first person Jesus appeared to after the Resurrection was his mother and he encourages us to picture Jesus appearing at home to Mary, watching the joy and emotion in the scene.

Examples  

 

 

Links to Prayer Resources

 

Pray As You Go -- download for MP3 players reflections on the daily readings

Daily Reflections from Creighton University (other links as well)

Sacred Space -- daily desktop retreat

Lectio Divina - a practice of reading, meditating and praying the Holy Scriptures

Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius -The Spiritual Exercises are a compilation of meditations, prayers, and contemplative practices  to help people deepen their relationship with God

Spiritual Direction - process of accompanying people on a spiritual journey

Cursillo -- Cursillo is a weekend "Short Course in Christianity" (Saint Basil's Salvatorian Center and Boston Cursillo)

Retreat Centers in Massachusetts