Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.” Prayer and Christian life are inseparable, for they concern the same love and the same renunciation, proceeding from love.
What is prayer?
“[Prayer] is commonly held to be a conversation. In a conversation there are always an ‘I’ and a ‘thou’ or ‘you.’ In this case the ‘Thou’ is with a capital ‘T’. If at first the ‘I’ seems to be the most important element in prayer, prayer teaches that the situation is actually different. The ‘Thou’ is more important, because our prayer begins with God .…
“In prayer, then, the true protagonist is God. The protagonist is Christ, who constantly frees creation from slavery to corruption and leads it toward liberty, for the glory of the children of God. The protagonist is the Holy Spirit, who ‘comes to the aid of our weakness.’ We begin to pray, believing that it is our own initiative that compels us to do so. Instead, we learn that it is always God’s initiative within us, just as Saint Paul has written. This initiative restores in us our true humanity; it restores in us our unique dignity.”
Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ: to get to know him, love him, and being united to him. We learn what prayer is by reviewing the life of Christ. He taught us how to pray. When Jesus prayed to his Father, he was already teaching us how to pray.
“The Church invites the faithful to regular prayer: daily prayers, the Liturgy of the Hours, Sunday Eucharist, the feasts of the liturgical year.”
Types of Prayer
“Prayer in the events of each day and each moment is one of the secrets of the kingdom revealed to ‘little children,’ to the servants of Christ, to the poor of the Beatitudes. It is right and good to pray so that the corning of the kingdom of justice and peace may influence the march of history, but it is just as important to bring the help of prayer into humble, everyday situations; all forms of prayer can be the leaven to which the Lord compares the kingdom.”
“The Christian tradition comprises three major expressions of the life of prayer:
- “Vocal prayer, founded on the union of body and soul in human nature, associates the body with the interior prayer of the heart, following Christ’s example of praying to his Father and teaching the Our Father to his disciples.
- “Meditation is a prayerful quest engaging thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. Its goal is to make our own, in faith, the subject considered, by confronting it with the reality of our own life.
- “Contemplative prayer is the simple expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gaze of faith fixed on Jesus, an attentiveness to the Word of God, a silent love. It achieves real union with the prayer of Christ to the extent that it makes us share in his mystery. “
The Battle of Prayer
The battle of prayer is inseparable from the necessary “spiritual battle” to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ: we pray as we live, because we live as we pray.
The principal difficulties that we find are:
- We “don’t have the time.” Prayer is considered as an occupation incompatible with all the other things we have to do.
The remedy: “Make the time” for your personal prayer, knowing that nothing could excuse your failing to do so.
- We “get distracted.” Concentration becomes really difficult and we easily give up.
The remedy: Turn your heart back to God, offering him the distractions with humility, without discouragement.
- We “feel dry.” It seems that the heart is separated from God, with no taste for thoughts, memories, and feelings, even spiritual ones.
The remedy: Remember that “unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
There are also two frequent temptations that threaten prayer:
- Lack of faith. Prayer is not the first priority.
The remedy: Ask our Lord with a humble heart, “Lord, increase my faith.”
- Acedia. A form of depression stemming from lax ascetical practice, that leads to discouragement.
The remedy: Trust God more and hold fast in constancy.