What is Prayer? St. Therese of Lisieux said “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy (Catechism of the Catholic Church). Paragraph 2559 discusses the need for humility in prayer: “…only when we humbly acknowledge that ‘we do not know how to pray as we ought’, are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer…”
Before discussing the types of prayer, we see the Catechism talks about the mindset of the person praying. We see the theme of humility throughout the discussion of prayer. We must always be aware of the “target”. Jesus Christ is our “Template” for many things, prayer included. If we compare ourselves to Him, we will always be lesser, thus striving to get better. This type of humility can surely improve many things in our spiritual life, especially prayer.
Jesus teaches us about prayer throughout the scripture. In the Gospel of Mathew (5: 5-7):
When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogoues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
The theme of humility in prayer is continued in paragraph 2562, where it states that it is the Heart that prays. The words are meaningless without the heart, and God knows what is in our hearts.
The Catechism points out different types of prayer: Blessing and Adoration, Prayer of Petition, Prayer of Intercession, and Prayer of Praise.
These different types of prayer all have a place in our lives. Through the different expressions of prayer (Vocal, Meditation, and Contemplative)
Through vocal prayer, we voice (internally and externally) our love and longing for God. “Whether or not our prayer is heard depends not on the number of words, but on the fervor or our souls” 2700.
Meditation takes our prayers to another level. Mediation is a form of prayerful reflection on scripture, icons, circumstances, that bring us closer to God. The Rosary is a perfect example of meditation.
The final type of prayer is Contemplative prayer. This can be a struggle with distraction of today’s world. Paragraph 2711 states that “entering in to 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.”
These are very advanced concepts from a wonderful book (The Catechism of the Catholic Church). It is important through growing our prayer life, that we continue to revisit these issues and learn how to pray better…and guess what…we can pray to pray better!!!
The bottom line here is that prayer feeds the soul. It does not always have to be a memorized poetic set of verses (they are nice though), it can be as simple as “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner”. Just remember to pray early and often. Spend time to thank God, to exalt God, and remember to ask for forgiveness. Stay humble, and remember that God loves you. There is so much power in prayer. I will go into the power of intercessory prayer at another time in the discussion of the Communion of Saints, but the remember that we have our prayers, prayers of others around us, and the prayers of souls in purgatory and the amazing prayers of the Angels and Saints already in heaven. We pray for their intercession because they are close to God, in fact they are in the presence of God. As I said, this article has already gone too long, so I will go into further detail in a later blog. For now God Bless you in the Name of the Father…the Son…and the Holy Spirit…Amen…
For more information on prayer go to http://www.catholic.org/clife/prayers/