spirituality

Ways We Pray

Are there different ways to pray?

At a recent Wednesday night women’s gathering at my church, a group of us were talking about prayer. Before our session began, we wrote our prayer requests on small pieces of paper and placed them in decorated containers that became the centerpiece of our table. At the end of the evening, we ended our night by lifting our hands over our “prayer centerpiece” and asking God to accept our intentions and bless them.

beach-1868772_1280We had started the evening with a prayer that many of us had memorized and we ended the evening with 15 minutes of silent prayer amid candlelight — each of us individually talking to God in our hearts. This made me think about the different ways we communicate with Our Creator. Whether it be memorized prayers like the Lord’s Prayer, a quick acknowledgement before meals, or impromptu prayers for others, there are many different ways to pray to God.

When we pray, or talk to God, we are nurturing our relationship with him. This is no different than talking to a dear friend and sharing our innermost thoughts, our fears, our accomplishments or our desires. We are building relationship with the One who created us. We are making ourselves known and letting God into the private parts of our heart and soul.

Why does it matter what type of prayer we use as long as we pray? Relationship is a two-way street. We cannot always be the ones doing all of the talking. Like any good friendship, there must be some listening. If I never quit talking, I can’t hear what my friend wants to share with me. This holds true with God. I will sometimes talk and I will sometimes listen! My form of communication will not always be the same.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church groups prayer into five different forms and I’ve given an example of each:

  • Blessing and adoration, i.e., Lord, I love you and adore you
  • Prayer of petition, i.e., Lord, help me and keep me safe
  • Prayer of intercession, i.e., Lord, heal my friend of her illness
  • Prayer of thanksgiving, i.e., Lord, I give thanks in all circumstances of my life
  • Prayer of praise, i.e., Lord, I exult you and sincerely know you’re my Father

There are many examples of prayer in the Bible. One of my favorite examples of differing styles of prayer is demonstrated through Moses. Moses prays to God at the burning bush, “Here I am” (adoration). Moses prays to God to intercede for Miriam, “Please, heal her” (intercession). Moses argues in prayer! He says to God, “Now, if I have found favor with you, please let me know your ways …” (petition).

Jesus too shows us many types of prayer during his life on earth. He prays for people (intercession), with people (petition) and in thanksgiving while He was eating with the apostles. Many times we see him go away for longer periods of time to pray before he has to make big decisions. In the book of Luke (6:12) Jesus spent the night in prayer before he chose his disciples.

In our relationship with Christ, we will encounter many different types of prayer depending on the situation. Knowing this can help us develop a deeper relationship with him. If we realize that sometimes we will talk, sometimes we will listen, sometimes we will plead and sometimes we might even be angry, then we can be free to grow in our prayer life. It’s all communication and it’s all part of our relationship with God.

spirituality

Why I Go to the Adoration Chapel

I’ve been spending at least one hour a week in Eucharistic Adoration for 5 years. For some of you, 5 years may seem like no time at all. For others, it may seem like an eternity. I’d like to explain how Eucharistic Adoration has helped me develop a deeper relationship with Christ and how it has brought about peace in my world.

At the age of 50, I found myself at a crossroads after my husband and I separated. I had been married for 20 years and had two daughters, ages 11 and 15. The separation lasted 3 years and 6 months before we were divorced. Circumstances out of my control kept the divorce from happening quickly. Needless to say, I was quite lonely especially on weekend nights.

During the times my daughters would go visit their dad, I felt very disoriented about what to do with my time. I had not spent much time alone in over 20 years. I needed someplace to go and just be with God. That’s how I started going to the Adoration Chapel that was in our parish. Because the chapel was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I could go in no matter what time of day it was. It became my refuge.

At first, I was spending many, many hours in the Adoration Chapel. My head was spinning because I had been blindsided by the separation. The real purpose of Eucharistic Adoration is to come sit and love Jesus by acknowledging his Real Presence. I don’t know if I was coming to sit and love Jesus as much as I was coming because I had no where else to go. And it was free.

I quickly discovered the most important part of being with Christ was the silence in the Chapel. It was here that I could remove myself from the noise of my world and sit in peace. Silence is observed 24/7 in an Adoration Chapel and this gave me time to think. “Silence is God’s first language,” said Saint John of the Cross. I wanted to understand God’s language and why my life looked this way.

Prayer seemed to flow freely when I would come to adore my Lord. Prayer is simply talking to God. I found the surroundings of the Chapel made it much easier to talk to God because I was focused on Him. When I prayed at home, I was often distracted. When I prayed in the Adoration Chapel, my mind was centered on speaking with my Creator. My prayer life began to grow.

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Stained glass window inside Adoration Chapel

About a year into making visits, my heart began to yearn for this time with Christ. I felt His presence, I listened for His voice, I wrote in my journal and I was at peace. I realized that it didn’t matter what attitude I came in with — I always left with an attitude of love. Now that was a real miracle.

In the last 5 years, there have been periods where I have spent an hour a day in Adoration. Then there have been times I’ve only been able to go once a week for an hour. If I had my way, I’d be in Eucharistic Adoration an hour a day, 7 days a week. The silence, the prayer, and the contemplation have all mellowed me. It’s become a way of life so enjoyable and peaceful that I find myself longing to sit in Adoration on a daily basis. And that has definitely brought me closer to Christ!

 

spirituality

Remember the Year of Faith?

word-907384_1920When Pope Benedict XVI announced the Year of Faith and that it was to begin on October 11, 2012, I never realized how personal this would become for me. You see, just one day before, I had uncovered evidence that my 20-year marriage was over. And on October 12, 2012, my husband moved out – never to return.

Just like that, it was over. A year and a half of dating, twenty years of marriage, four residences, two adopted children, two cats, two dogs and, yes, it was finished. My life flashed before my eyes. It was said and done. How could this be and how could I not have had a clue?

This realization took me years to comprehend. I had married under the assumption this was going to be for the rest of my life. My parents had been married for 51 years before my mother’s death. My ex-husband’s parents are still married today. I saw no evidence of this looming as part of my future with this man.

Pope Benedict claimed that the Year of Faith was a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord.” That’s exactly what it was for me – a summons to keep my eyes fixed on Christ. The world had hurt me and healing would come only from my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I received love from my Church, my parish, my priests and my deacons. I truly believe God opened my heart that year to receive His grace.

I made it a priority to be at Mass each and every Sunday and all Holy Days of Obligation. I went to confession frequently, I spent countless hours in Eucharistic Adoration and I prayed daily. I read the word of God. In retrospect, I spent the Year of Faith as a student of Christ, believing that my very life depended on it. And, really, it did. My life does depend on this faith because some days, it’s all I have.

Pope Benedict XVI explains in his Apostolic letter on the Year of Faith that we must recognize the “interweaving of holiness and sin.” This is true both for the Church and for myself. I had to spend time, both in prayer and in confession, admitting my faults in the marriage. It took me a few years to have mercy on myself, my ex-spouse and on his girlfriend. The Father holds out his hand of mercy to everyone.

It has now been close to four years since my ex-husband left our marriage. I still struggle and I have had to re-think my purpose in life. I am no longer a wife. I chose instead to think of myself as a daughter – a daughter of the King. I will rejoice in this thought and pray that my faith will continue to grow. What strengthens my faith? In his book God Is Near Us, Pope Benedict says, “the Church of the suffering” gives us our hope. Christ achieved it all for us on the Cross.

Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life.” John 6:27