St Francis Q&A

Friday, January 11, 2008

"Lord, teach us to pray"

Eucharistic Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All those who wish to adore Jesus in the Eucharist are invited!!
Recently, Anon asked the following in response to my post, “Prayer: Putting on the Mind of Christ” (11/13/07): “How did you make the transition from praying only occasionally when you needed something to what you call real prayer that involves a relationship with God? I think the former type of prayer is typical of many many people -- people who believe, go to Mass, etc. How does one move beyond it?”

In one of my Christmas homilies, I said that it was back when I didn’t really know Christ that I would only pray when I needed something. I said that there was no real friendship there. I encouraged all to examine where they are in their friendship with Christ and said that it’s all about friendship with Him. The inference was that if there are people who pray now like I used to, then they don’t really know Christ or have a real friendship with Him. I will answer your question in the same way by saying that one moves beyond merely asking God for stuff by growing in friendship with Him. So, how do we actually do that?

This reminds me of a talk I had this week with 2nd grade boys who are in my nephew’s Cub Scouts den. I asked them if they pray every day and just about every one of them (18) said they did. Great! So, I asked them how they pray. They said that they get on their knees, they make the sign of the Cross, they close their eyes, etc. Now, of course, they were answering my question, but these weren’t the responses I was necessarily looking for. So, I asked them a follow-up question: how do you talk to your best friend? They responded by saying that they talk about what’s going on in school or other stuff, they listen to their friend, they laugh with their friend, etc.

I found it very interesting that their answers about how they pray were much more of a formal nature. They immediately thought of the style of their prayer rather than its substance. I assured them that the gestures they make are very important; these gestures (kneeling, sign of the cross) show that prayer is not exactly like talking to a good friend because it is an encounter with the Almighty. But, if we are in friendship with Christ, then prayer is from our heart. When we describe how we pray, it should be along the lines of: talking with Him about what’s going on in our lives, listening to Him speak to our hearts (the hardest part), laughing with Him, crying with Him, thanking Him, etc.

How did I move beyond self-centered prayer? I began to spend time with Christ. I began to go out of my way to be with Him, mainly in Eucharistic Adoration. I began to center my prayer on Him. I didn’t know how to pray when I first started (still have a long way to go!), but I knew I just wanted to be there with Him. I knew that I needed to be there with Him. The most important thing about prayer is to be there. Just be there. If we are there with Him (if not physically in the Real Presence, then spiritually in our hearts) with open hearts, then He shows us how to pray. “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1).

I remember what a retreat master in the seminary said about prayer which summarizes much of what I’m writing. He said that we often go to our Lord to tell Him the kind of day we have had and dump all of our problems on Him. But, how often do we say, “Hi, Lord, how was your day?” The best way for us to move beyond self-centered prayer is to center our prayer on Jesus. The best way for us to do that is to see Him - in the Eucharist. We will see Him tonight from 7-8 pm. If we come with open hearts, He will show us how to pray.


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