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!

 

Uncategorized

Having a Spiritual Director

A few years ago, I found myself smack dab in “mid life” gasping for air. I couldn’t breath. The reality that my 20-year marriage had ended left me shocked. It was as if I had been run over by a truck — a big mud truckjeep-1318706_1280. Confused and unable to think clearly, I sought help from my parish priest.

The loss of my marriage was the initial reason I sought spiritual direction. Obviously, I needed professional counseling, which I received, but I also needed someone to guide me under the rule of the divine. Left to my own human feelings and sinfulness, I was headed on a path to destruction— in the opposite direction from union with God. I was headed out the door with a wrecking ball!

Spiritual direction is defined as being under the guidance of one who is trained in Scripture and Catholic doctrine and helps you become aware, or “awaken” you, to the spiritual relationship you have with God. In my case, I initially thought God was absent; however, that was not true. God was there, and had been all along; I was not listening. I was too absorbed in my own life, my home and what I wanted to do.

My first spiritual director was my parish priest. I came to my first appointment full of anger, hurt and sin. Because of my situation, he met with me more frequently than under normal circumstances. But eventually, we would meet once a month for an hour. His role was to direct me to the workings of the Holy Spirit in my life. As I would learn, prayer would become essential for me to move forward.

In spiritual direction, I was looking at my relationship with Christ. This was most helpful to me for I wanted to dwell on what I saw as “character flaws” in my husband. There was no need for that. I had my own character flaws to deal with and I spent time in direction learning how to change myself. I learned how to deepen my relationship with Christ. I would learn how to be humble and patient — characteristics of Christ, not me — which took a spiritually mature person to teach me.

After many months in direction, my parish priest was transferred to a new city and a new parish. By this time, I knew spiritual direction was mandatory for me if I was to grow spiritually through my loss. I had grown to love the peace which came with prayer and silence — something my priest encouraged for me.

My second spiritual director, and the one I still see today, is a woman in my parish trained in spiritual mentorship. I have met with her monthly for over three years now. She has maneuvered with me through my life experiences of the death of my mother, the end of my marriage and a bout with cancer. Her gentle guidance, and sometimes rebuke, has been indescribable because it has brought peace to my life.

I will admit, we’ve had some tough topics to conquer — forgiveness, honesty, and taking a look at that “wooden beam in my own eyes” (Matthew 7:3). My spiritual director is good for me because she points me to the truth. Without her guidance and prayer, I hesitate to think where my life in Christ might be. I envision I would be stuck under that muddy tire.

My life today is not what I had dreamed, but it is “my life” in Christ. Without spiritual direction, I feel I could have become a bitter, old lady. Instead, I am a woman seeking the heart of Christ, a woman with compassion for others who are hurting. The road is not always smooth, but what does Christ tell us? How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life (Matthew 7:14).

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Silence on Retreat

I recently attended a 7-day spirituality retreat offered through the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. The week was filled with study, prayer, daily Mass, spiritual direction, a movie and many meals. There were 100 other men and women from around the United States on this retreat with me. The priests and sisters from the Apostles of the Interior Life, the archdiocese School of Faith team and the Holy Spirit lead us during the week.

Day 6 was a day of silence. No talking! During that day, I wrote these thoughts as I was reflecting on what had occurred while on retreat. I will share my insights with you.


 

Now, I come to a place of rest. A day of silence. A time and space to sit and reflect with Our Lord on what has transpired in me. It is starting to sink in that God is asking me to be an instrument of His love. He is calling me to continue loving His Son and allowing His Son to love me so I can love others. The emotions are real, they are deep and, as is typical for me, there are tears.

Mark 6:30-32 The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”

I’ve tried to meet each person attending this session. This is the third time in a year we’ve been together for a 7-day stretch. I’m sure I’ve not met everyone, but each person I’ve met has touched me in a different way. What amazes me about this process is how the Holy Spirit takes my first impression and shows me how I am judgmental. When I am allowed to sit and get to know one of God’s children on a personal level, all of my first impressions are proven wrong.

We have studied the lost art of having meaningful conversations this week. There is no small talk about the weather, our clothing or our children. We are asked to go to that next level of deeper conversation. During this time, a friend disclosed her marriage problems. She knows of my divorce and that God has provided strength. I am able to assure her that God hears prayer and he works for our good.

At breakfast, a man discussed the reality of his life. “How have you handled your wife living in a nursing home and being left to raise your 6 children?” I asked him. My heart softens as I hear him tell me how all 6 of his children do their own laundry. I discover the strength God has given him to endure. Before he spoke, however, I only saw his round, soft belly, his bald head and the t-shirt he was wearing. But through his words of courage, I saw his heart. Jesus shows me how much He loves this man.

During one of my daily breaks, I checked my emails. I had an email from my family practice doctor. A recent CAT revealed several cysts on my kidney. The doctor tells me I need to go see a nephrologist. My health issues continue and I’m determined my suffering will not be wasted. I believe in redemptive suffering.

It was a wonderful week. The great “take away” for me is the importance of silence. If I allow no time in my day to silently reflect, how can I know which way God is leading me? How can I hear his voice? How can I rest? I’m convinced silence is a must in my life.

Thanksgiving, Uncategorized

The 1st Thanksgiving

This was my 4th Thanksgiving as a single, separated (not yet divorced) mother. I’ll admit, it’s become much easier. This year, my heart was drawn to all of my friends and relatives who are single. The holiday season can be a time of loneliness. I chose to keep my mind focused on those who were single or widowed and pray for them throughout my day. This brought me peace.

This year was much different from my first Thanksgiving as a separated mother. My first year apart from my daughters was a shock. It wpumpkin-704626_1280as 2012 and I had been diagnosed with breast cancer on October 29th. My plans had been to be in Florida with my family and extended family. We had planned a beach-front Thanksgiving vacation six months in advance. Instead of the beach, I found myself alone in Little Rock with breast
cancer. Devastation.

It appeared God was playing the cruelest of jokes on me. I had discovered an unfaithful husband and Stage 2 breast cancer a month earlier. It didn’t seem real to me and it didn’t seem like my life. Up until that point, I had not suffered an illness or a loss of that magnitude. But, I would soon discover, God showed up for me everywhere I turned.

The first place I discovered God that Thanksgiving was in my father. He had buried my mom just four months earlier in July 2012. My parents had been married 51 years when my mom died of cancer. She had struggled for 8 years with what began as colon cancer. Had it not been for my circumstances, my dad would have been left at home alone for his first Thanksgiving without his wife. I was so grateful to be with him. How could I possibly mope around all weekend when my father was grieving?

On Thanksgiving morning, the two of us went to Mass. The priest reminded us to be thankful. I had to dig deep into my heart to be thankful for anything. I soon discovered I was truly thankful I had a father who was still alive and could sit with me in worship. I was thankful I had three brothers who I could depend on to help me. I was thankful I was alive and the cancer was treatable.

The second place I discovered God was at a wedding. My father and I attended a Saturday evening wedding that weekend. The groom was one of my dad’s golfing buddies. I witnessed two senior citizens giddy with love. Their love offered me hope. I realized that sad times had preceded this wedding because both bride and groom had lost their first spouses. There was a moment in the wedding where the priest remembered both of their former spouses. Tears were shed.

The groom’s daughter, who I met for the first time at the wedding, was a breast cancer survivor. She shared her story with me at the reception and filled me with confidence. I knew that I could go back home and tackle my cancer. It was as if God had placed me at that wedding to show me He had plans for me. I just needed to trust Him because He had my back.

Yes, this Thanksgiving was much easier and time has helped heal my wounds. But more than time, the family God gave me has helped me heal. I have a father and three brothers who I love. I also have a heavenly Father and many brothers and sisters in Christ who sustain me in my weakness and loneliness. God has proven himself over and over to me these last 4 Thanksgiving holidays.

My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9