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!

 

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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.

Surgery

Prayer Before Surgery

doctor-650548_1280I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer three months after my mom died of cancer. My sense of urgency to remove the cancer was enormous. Terrified, I consulted with my family practice doctor a few hours after my mammogram. I was going to need help navigating my way through the maze of doctors and treatments I would need.

“Seek first the kingdom of God” ran through my mind. I had memorized the words to Matthew 6:33 years ago in Bible study. I prayed, quietly asking God to take care of me. Then I called a few close friends who I knew were particularly close to God. They had strong prayer lives so I asked them to begin praying for me. Ironically, I had just called on them two weeks earlier with the news of my impending divorce.

The day following the mammogram, my friend drove me to a surgeon’s office to have a needle biopsy. Before we began our 30-minute trip to midtown, she asked if she could pray for me. Absolutely. My friend prayed out loud asking God to work out the details of my illness and keep me at peace. As she drove, I was unbelieving of my fate. I went into the doctor’s office and had the biopsy. With the exception of needing more lidocaine, the procedure was flawless.

For the next two weeks, I desperately discussed my surgical options with four different surgeons. I had invasive lobular carcinoma and would need a bilateral mastectomy and hysterectomy. I needed to find a team of three surgeons. My general surgeon (who had performed the biopsy) called five plastic surgeons in the area. They were booked. It was, after all, the holiday season. I continued to pray, my friends prayed and I made a plea for prayer through my CaringBridge journal.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

I became a “nurse navigator” frantically trying to coordinate three surgeons’ schedules. I needed a general breast surgeon, a plastic surgeon and a gynecological surgeon. They needed to be available in one hospital, in one operating room in one afternoon. I learned not all doctors had surgical privileges in the same hospitals. I began to think I was asking for a small miracle, but I continued to pray.

By now, prayer had taken on a different meaning for me. It was no longer a quick request I threw God’s way. God was becoming my friend, my advisor, my counselor. I would have lengthy conversations with Him. I talked and then I listened. I quit watching television to make more time to hear Him. I knew my life depended on His answers and I knew He wanted to help me. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Around the third week of November, I was in despair. I could not find a plastic surgeon to team up with my general surgeon. Breast augmentation surgery was taking precedence over removing my cancer. This was a busy time of year when plastic surgeons were typically booked months, even years, in advance. Besides, cosmetic surgery cases paid cash.

God heard my pleas. The teaching director from my Bible Study had read my CaringBridge post. She called me on a Saturday morning to see if she could help. This connection would change the course of the rest of my time with cancer. Not only had she gone through breast cancer herself, but her husband was an oncologist. I felt elated as if God had placed me in that Bible study class years ago for this very reason.

After discussing my dilemma, I changed my course of action. It was obvious I would need to choose another surgeon and another hospital. I had just needed to hear those words spoken out loud. This phone call had been my gift. It was my wake-up call. And it had been orchestrated by God.

By the next week, I had scheduled all my surgeons. Every detail was covered with precision. More answered prayers. I knew God was not responsible for my cancer, but He was making things happen so He could take care of me. Even the timing of my annual mammogram had been helpful. If the appointment had been a few months earlier, it would have overlapped my mother’s time in hospice.

In the end, I was confident in the team of doctors God had prepared for me. I was humbled with their expert knowledge and skill of performing the surgery. God had been faithful even in the details of the surgeons’ schedules. My radiation oncologist referred to the timing of it all as a “small miracle”. The procedure took place on December 18, 2012 and lasted 5 1/2 hours.