The Catholic Faith in Slow Motion(no. 19)
Praying Every Day (2)
Last time (Bulletin 8/24) we wrote about what St. Paul calls unceasing prayer – the thoughts and sighs, the silent cries for help, the “surge of the heart” (St. Therese of Liseiux) that the believer offers to God perpetually throughout the day. For the Christian, to live is to pray. But if we are to grow in faith and deepen our knowledge and love of God, our lives must be ordered also by a discipline of prayer.
The Sanctification of Time . . .
In St. Luke's Acts of the Apostles (10:9) we learn something about the prayer habits of St. Peter the Apostle. Peter was a guest in a house in the seaside city of Joppa and St. Luke notes that “he went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour (noon time). For devout Jews of the time, certain hours of the days were “prayer hours”, and Peter seems to have held on to the habit as an Apostle of Jesus Christ. This tradition of prayer passed seamlessly into the life of the Church, in the Liturgy of the Hours prayed by the clergy and those in religious orders.
Lay people are bound by no strict rule of prayer. However, all the faithful are encouraged to pray some form of morning, evening, and bedtime prayer, along with the table blessings at meal times. However, if you are just beginning to establish a discipline of prayer in your life, or if your schedule is especially burdened, these set prayer “hours” may need to be brief. Or maybe one time during the day may be set aside as your consecrated time. For all of us, clergy or lay, there will have to be sacrifices made, habits altered, and “needs” redefined, if we are to establish any discipline of prayer in our lives.
The Sanctification of Place . . .
Prayer is a human act. And human creatures live in time, and we live in place. Not all places are alike. Some are favorite places, blessed by memories and associations. Some places are holy, like the “inner room” Jesus speaks about where “the heavenly Father sees in secret”. Some places are unholy. If it is possible for you to establish a regular place for your regular prayers, it will be a great help to you. In that place there might be a candle ready to be lit, your rosary, a pillow to kneel upon, a crucifix or icon. Perhaps you are able to regularly visit a church or chapel at lunch time or on your way home from work. Maybe, when the weather allows, a familiar park bench in a relatively private setting may be your place of prayer.
Sanctified Words . . .
You need a prayer book, one that will help you learn how to better pray, that will provide you with words to pray along with the saints, that will help you meditate on Scripture, that will deepen your understanding of the Faith and help you enter into the rhythms of the life of the Church. There are many such books available. For those who do not already have a favorite book, I recommend these two.
(1) Handbook of Prayers, 7the Edition, published by Midwest Theological Forum,
www.theologicalforum.org. (between 12 and 20 dollars). It's a true treasure of prayers and devotions, with very practical helps for praying the rosary, preparing to make your confession, etc. (2) Magnificat, www.magnificat.com – a daily missal and prayer book, mailed to you each month (a year's subscription: $65 [large print], $45 regular size). It includes an order of Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer for every day, beautifully printed and adorned with Christian art. Both books will immerse you in the holy language of prayer.
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