Monday, August 27, 2012

More thoughts on prayer.

We all need to pray.  This is something that just about every Catholic knows in the very fibre of his/her being.  One only need sit in the confessional for a short time as a confessor, and one will inevitably hear the lament that a penitent had not ‘said’ his/her prayers, or prayed ‘enough’.  It does feature with great frequency as things that are oft mentioned in encountering God’s grace of forgiveness.

Why do we pray?  For a whole host of reasons. We pray because prayer allows us to forge, foster and develop our relationship with God and with each other.  We pray because we know that all that we have is gift, and prayer helps us to be grateful people for things that we could never deserve.  We also pray because it was something that Jesus taught his disciples, and through them, taught us as well.  We also need to pray because prayer centres us and helps us to conform to God’s will and design for us.  This list is in no way an exhaustive one, but generally, these are very good and sound reasons that we ought to dedicate some time to prayer each day.

Yet, despite knowing how important it is for us pray, many of us struggle and find it so difficult.  Rushing through prayers is something some of us have a propensity to do, perhaps so that we can ‘get it done over with’ and carry on with other ‘more important’ things on our daily agenda.  Some of us are also known to have a procrastinating attitude towards prayer, and leave prayer to the last moment of our day, before turning off the lights and switching off our minds.  When this becomes a daily routine, prayer becomes a bit like giving the last remaining scraps that we have on our plate to the dog who waits at the table with eager and hopeful longing.  We don’t really care what is left, as long as the dog gets something and is satisfied with what we have given it.  One of the more telling signs that one’s approach toward prayer is suffering is when one admits to not ‘saying’ one’s prayers.  When the verb ‘say’ is used, it tends to reduce deep heart-felt communication with God to the mumbling, recitation, incantation or regurgitation of a set of words and phrases. 

At the heart of true prayer is the desire to lift our consciousness to God and to let that part of our being which God holds dearest to become enjoined to him.  Doing this well entails a humbling that we don’t particularly like as ego-driven human beings who are often making ourselves the centre of the universe.  It requires of us to consciously set aside our agenda, our goals, our fears, our angers, our disappointments and our sadness so that we will not be weighed down with these matters when soaring to God in prayerful communion.  Having said this, we must not forget that there is an important part in prayer called intercession, where we bring to God the many forms of ‘lack’ which we find in our lives and in the world, and in the lives of those we love.  Unfortunately, too many of us make that the only part of our prayer, and in so doing, have made God into a divine wish-granter. 

When Jesus placed a child before his disciples and said that they needed to welcome a child in his name, there was more than meets the eye.  There’s indeed something special about a child and the way that he or she communicates with his or her parent.  There’s trust, innocence, openness, availability and in many cases, there isn’t even much that needs to be said to the parent.  The child can be very contented just staying the embrace of the loving parent.  But once our innocence dies away (and it can happen so quickly) the ‘child’ can easily become calculative, manipulative, scheming, plotting, combative, ill-intentioned, conniving and even disingenuous.  Those negative qualities were never in Jesus’ mind when he brought the child into his divine embrace. 

At the depth of contemplative prayer is communication, which is non-verbal and intuitive.  After all the supplication, praise and thanksgiving is done, one has to give oneself the time to ease into the loving presence that requires of us a silent presence and indeed, presence to presence, where we try to get back to that ‘child’ mode which allows us to want the divine embrace of God. 

The mystics will be quick to concur with the statement that God doesn’t need to say very much to love us.  The problem may be that one our part, we can’t seem to stop talking.  


  1. Sometimes one’s prayer is at its best when one’s life is at its worse! This happens - in border situations - when everything has been taken away, when there is not even a hopeful future, when we are being overwhelmed by life...........and we have nothing - only God! It is in prayer then, that we are facing the fear that we cover up when we face the world. It is then, that probably we are most authentic and trusting, - we are like the child you said, “There’s indeed something special about a child........................there’s trust, innocence, openness, availability..................’’ we are finding soul in life.

    When a child is totally absorbed in a task or interest, he is in the present moment and he loses track of time (as we measure it) We too have these moments when what we do is what we love – when we do weeding and planting flowers, nothing else exists, nothing else is on our mind, except the cool earth beneath our feet; even sitting by the porch swing, taking in a sunset, playing a game of golf – as simple as that! In such present moments, we have a sense of ‘’ringing true’’ , we become a channel for grace......that mysterious healing presence that makes moments sacred. So much so that even in the midst of grief and deep loss, we still sense a harmony.....that we are part of something divine that is both within us and out there. If we are able to sustain these moments daily in stillness and silence, we shall be on our way to having quiet time with the Lord.

    God bless you, Fr

  2. Hi Fr. Luke,

    At the deepest level, our whole life should be a prayer. In other words, turned towards God in in a state of constant appreciation, thankfulness, wonder and love. It would seem that this is entirely natural, for one who has been given faith. But the ego gets in the way; it always does. And so we struggle. Daily. And I speak from experience, too. It's no wonder (to me) that the letter "I" looks a whole lot like the number 1.
    God Bless,

  3. Afflicted with misery
    You are with me, Lord.
    When no one understands
    and no words could be spoken,
    Your merciful love penetrates my heart.
    You set my tears rolling
    to set me free
    For you, O Lord
    I surrender my entire being
    Into your hand
    Till the end of time!

    Bless you, Father Luke!
    Kelly :)

  4. Dearest Fr. Luke,

    Many of my catholic friends from schooldays have become at best, Sunday or monthly Catholics, some even yearly Catholics. They have not lost their faith, after all, they used to be the ones to drag me to church, just that they had so-called other priorities in life now. Whenever I caught up with them, they will always end off with asking me to pray for them. When I inquired about their prayer life, they will lament they do not know how to pray anymore – God seemed so distant and silent, and the rosary seems like a spiritual “treadmill” – something they know is good, but finds it so boring.

    I will try to explain to them the meaning of prayer if they are receptive, if not, I will end off with saying I will pray for them but they still need to spend time with God. It is the desire of wanting to pray that will be the “prayer” itself that I will often intercede for.

    And for myself, as I commit myself to intercessory prayer, I see myself changing too. The more I intercede, the more I ask God to bless my friends; I discover my relationship with God growing too.
    I realise through intercessory, I’ve come to trust Him more, as in order to intercede, I have to first believe God can do the “impossible”. I grown convicted that He can, and I learnt to surrender to God more fully now. I no longer worry about problems after I prayed, trusting in God after I have fully surrendered.
    And whenever I pray with child-like expectant faith, it can become “exciting” as God will sometimes surprise me with the outcomes.

    Isn’t prayer such a beautiful gift – no matter what our agenda of prayer is,we will come out of it with more. It’s like entering a treasure cove, and God will not let us leave empty-handed, we will be blessed because we attempted. It’s not the words, but the seeking heart that pleases God. A beautiful song I came across -

    Thank You Fr. Luke for your blog,
    God be with you always.

    Praying for you.