So you want to pray, but you're not sure where to start? Let me first tell you a story about a monk who almost drowned a seminarian . . .
How Important is Prayer?
There once was a young seminarian starting out on his journey toward the priesthood. He was a bit of a know-it-all, and wanted to be the best at everything he did. He heard about a very holy monk who was considered a spiritual master in regard to prayer and contemplation.
The seminarian sought him out, and asked the old monk to teach him all of his secrets for prayer. The monk sent him away. The seminarian was stubborn and returned again soon, asking again to learn his secrets to prayer. The monk told him to come back in one week.
When he arrived the next week, the monk took him out behind the monastery to a body of water. He still hadn't said a word. As they entered into the water up just past their waist, the seminarian grew impatient with the monk, who was still silent.
All of a sudden the monk grabbed the seminarian and held his head under the water. The seminarian struggled and thrashed about, but with the strength of an ox the old monk held him under the water. As the monk let go of him, he came up gasping for breath, embarrassed, angry, and confused. The monk looked at him and said, 'Until you pray with the same desperation that you have for air, you have not prayed.'
Prayer is as important to our soul as air is to our body! We need prayer to stay connected to the God who created us with a plan in mind. Let's take a look at some ways we can dive deeper into prayer in our everyday lives.
How to Pray
- Say hello! When a friend enters a room, the first thing most people do is say hello or throw up a wave or nod. In many ways, this is the beginning of prayer: an acknowledgement of God's presence. When we walk into a Church, we genuflect in front of the tabernacle to humble ourselves while we acknowledge and reverence the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist inside. As you begin to pray, whether it's just walking somewhere during the day, in a chapel or in your room, take a moment to acknowledge whose presence you are in. 'Be still, and know that I am God' (Psalms 46:11).
- Be yourself. So many people think that holiness is unattainable, and that to pray we need to look like a statue of St. Francis with our hands folded piously. The reality is that we were created to be in communion with God, and He desires to be in a relationship with us. He doesn't want you to be a carbon copy of a past saint. He created you with your own gifts and passions, and wants to shine through you uniquely in them. Come to him as you are and let Him transform you into the saint He wants you to be!
- “Teach us to pray' (Luke 11:1). Jesus' apostles asked Him these words, and that conversation resulted in what we call the 'Our Father' prayer. If his own apostles asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, how much more should we ask him to teach us to pray! Ask God to help you and know that He listens. 'Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you' (Matthew 7:7).
- Hit the brakes! The world we live in today blasts us with media and noise from every direction all day, from texting to music to tv and internet. These aren't bad things, but too much can be distracting from our relationship and conversation with God. “Silence is so lacking in this world which is often too noisy, which is not favorable to recollection and listening to the voice of God” (Pope Benedict XVI). Take 10 minutes every day from the time you spend on facebook or tv, and use that time to pray. Put God back at the center of your heart and mind.
- Keep it alive. A prayer life that isn't kept up is like a pond with no water flowing in or out. It becomes stagnant. There's no oxygen coming in, and it becomes uninhabitable. All you’ll find is scum and mosquitos. Nobody likes mosquitos; don't be that person. Yet a person who cultivates their relationship with God in prayer finds a much different picture. There is fresh water flowing in and out of the pond. It is life giving! There are flowers and trees that grow along the sides. Your prayer life will affect the other areas of your life.
'Happy those who do not follow the counsel of the wicked, Nor go the way of sinners, nor sit in company with scoffers. Rather, the law of the LORD is their joy; God’s law they study day and night. They are like a tree planted near streams of water, that yields its fruit in season; Its leaves never wither; whatever they do prospers' (Psalms 1:1-3).
- Let it transform you. Practice makes perfect. The entire Christian life, including prayer, is something that we have to work on to become better at it. God can do amazing things in us through our reaching out to him in prayer!
'Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit, and raises man to Heaven' (St. Ephraem of Syria).
Just Go Try!
As Catholics, we have access to the highest form of prayer every Sunday (and every day if available) in the Mass, ending with receiving Jesus Himself in the Eucharist. Talk about soul food! Enter into it in a deeper way each time and listen for God to speak to you in it.
You could also start by praying the rosary. Our mother Mary is awesome and is the perfect model for how to love her son.
The St. Michael the Archangel prayer is also a great prayer to know. Satan is always trying to separate us from God. St. Mike whips up on Satan. Yeah, you want that guy on your team.
Pray for your family, youth minister, priests, future spouse, and give thanks to God for all the people He has brought into your life to help shape you into who you are.
I’m praying that in your journey into prayer you fall in love with the God who will be there with you through good and bad times and countless adventures throughout the rest of your life. All you holy angels and saints, pray for us!