“Prayer is the lifting up of the mind
and heart to God.” (St. John Damascene) Prayer is listening to God, talking to
God and loving God. In the Catechism of
the Catholic Church, St Therese of Lisieux is quoted, “For me prayer is a surge
of the heart; it is a simple look toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and
of love embracing both trial and joy.” (CCC # 2558). St Alphonsus asserted vigorously of the importance of prayer
in these cutting words: “He who prays well will be saved; he who does not pray
will be damned.” In other words, prayer is a matter of life and death,
salvation of damnation. St. Augustine
edifies us with these simple but profound words: “He who prays well, lives
well, he who lives well dies well and he who dies well, all is well!” Therefore, let us encourage each other to take prayer seriously
and take advantage of these 10 suggestions or tips on how to establish in our
lives a strong, dynamic and blossoming
prayer life, keenly aware that our salvation and the salvation of many other
souls depends on this!
BEG FOR THE GRACE! St. Augustine says that we are all beggars before
God. St. Paul in his letter to the
Romans says that we really do not know how to pray. Good News1
The Holy Spirit can intercede for us with ineffable groans so that we
can say, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8). Turn
to the Holy Spirit and beg Him for the gift of prayer and that we would really
desire to pray. Let us ask Jesus, “Lord
teach us how to pray!” This was the
request of the Apostles and then Jesus taught them and gave us the Our Father.
Mary, too! Mary wants to teach us how to
pray. In her Apparitions she is always
exhorting us to pray, especially the Most Holy Rosary.
CLEAN THE WINDOW. Often we cannot pray well because our lives,
our minds and our consciences are not right with God. In other words, we have damaged our
friendship with Jesus or even broken totally our Friendship with Jesus. Why not
make as good confession, clean the window, clear the conscience, restore Friendship
with the Lord and then be able to talk to the Lord more intimately in prayer!
Prayer can be very demanding and we simply have to give God space that
He can act in our lives. We all have
habits—eating, cleaning, work and many more!
The best of habits that we can form is the Habit of prayer. Give time to the Lord! If possible, like Able, give the Lord your first
fruits. That is to say, find time to
pray as early as possible. We read in
the 1st chapter of the Gospel of Mark that Jesus got up way before
dawn and He was absorbed in prayer.
Early morning prayer, an early Holy Hour, “Hour of Power” will give you
light, encouragement and strength for the whole course of the day! Try it and you will never regret it!
PLACE! Indeed we can pray anytime and anyplace and
use any words that we want or simply to pray with our hearts. However it is
highly recommended that we find a time and a place to pray. Obviously the best place to pray would be in
the Silent Presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament, because Jesus is truly present
there. However, due to family circumstances, this may not be possible, than we
must find some quiet place where we will not be disturbed to pray. Maybe in the
quiet of our room. Jesus says to go to your room and pray. Perhaps, you can
construct your own little home-sanctuary and pray their—with statue, paintings
of Jesus and Mary, candles and incense. It is good to create an atmosphere that
will foster prayer. Find the time and
TEXT/MATERIAL TO HELP YOU PRAY! The great St. Teresa of Avila, “Doctor of
Prayer” said that she would never go to her prayer time without some book to
help her to enter into prayer. We should do the same! Suggestions! Of course the best of prayer-sources
is the Bible, the Word of God itself; and the Gospels are the very center and
heart of the Bible, the Word of God.
Enter in with an attitude of openness and generosity with these words: “Speak
O Lord for your servant is listening..” The words that Samuel, who heard the
word of God in the temple… Bring a good
prayer book! We should never underestimate
the use of vocal prayers. The great St.
Anthony Claret, commented that he receive many graces by praying vocal
prayers. What are vocal prayers? They are prayers that we recite with our
words, think in our minds and relish in our hearts. Some of the traditional vocal prayers are the
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be, prayer to our Guardian angel, Acts of Faith,
Hope and Charity, Act of contrition, the Creed.
However, a good prayer book will have prayers to the saints, novenas to
saints and to prepare for important feasts, prayers to prepare for Mass and to
give thanksgiving after Mass and many more.
Finally bring the little booklet written by St. Alphonsus on “Visits to
the Blessed Sacrament”. In Spanish, the “15 minutos” (15 minutes) of time with Jesus in the Blessed
Sacrament. In other words, come
prepared to make your prayer with the Lord.
In your prayer when God simply moves you to talk to Him spontaneously as
two friends or lovers would talk, you can drop the book and simply talk to Him.
IMAGES. Make proper use of images to talk to God,
Mary, the angels and the saints. The
Catholic Church highly encourages the use of sacramantels, among which are
paintings of Jesus, Mary, the angels and the saints or statues depicting
them. We obviously do not adore them
but honor who they represent! The family is the “Domestic church”. Every family should have its own little
sanctuary, prayer corner, prayer space, where everybody knows is the specific
place designated to meet the Lord!
READ ON PRAYER! Once again St Teresa of Avila would not allow
women to enter her convent who could not read. This was not discrimination, but
rather wisdom. The reason for this was that the saint from personal experience
was keenly aware of the fact that one could learn so much on the spiritual
life—specifically on prayer—by simply spending time in solid reading. What
should one read? Today we live in a
“Golden Epoch of literature”. Never has there been so much confusion; however,
never has there been so much information and good spiritual reading. A few
suggestions on reading on prayer: The Catechism of the Catholic Church part IV,
St Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Alphonsus Liguouri,
Prayer: the key to salvation, and all of the works of St Teresa of Avila which are
dedicated to prayer, The Life, the Interior Castle and the Way of
Perfection. You cannot go wrong with the
saints and church teachings!
SPIRITUAL DIRECTION. St. Faustina Kowalska insisted on finding
some adequate spiritual direction so as to advance in one’s spiritual life, to
grow in prayer and to grow in holiness of life. As we ascend in the spiritual
life, the devil becomes more subtle in his temptations. To be able to overcome
the many roadblocks, obstacles and difficulties in our prayer life some regular
and periodic spiritual direction is highly recommended! St. Teresa of Avila would have never persevered
in her reform of the Carmelite Order if it were not for having competent
spiritual direction amidst the constant trials, tribulations and satanic
interference that she experienced!
IGNATIAN EXTENDED RETREATS! As in anything in life, it simply takes time,
effort, good will and perseverance to succeed. Prayer is not a natural
operation but rather a working or collaborating with God in grace. Still, time,
good will and constant effort are indispensable for success in prayer. Many are
called to ascend the pinnacles and
heights of mystical prayer in their spiritual live, but they simply give up
when they encounter obstacles. St. Teresa says that we must have a determined
determination to never give up prayer.
The Ignatian Spiritual Exercises have been proven to be most
efficacious! An entire month with the
Lord, or two weeks, or the classical 8-day retreat, if not possible a 4-day
shot, or maybe just start with a 2-day weekend Ignatian retreat. Ignatian
spirituality lends itself to adaptation.
The retreats can be molded, tailored, adapted according to the person,
place, spiritual level and culture of the individual. In the past 500 years Ignatian retreats and
spirituality have proven to be most efficacious in forming saints like
Ignatius, Francis Xavier, Peter Canisius, Robert Bellarmine, Isaac Joques and
Jean Brebeuf, Peter Claver, Alberto Hurtado, Roque González. John Berchmans and
Aloysius Gonzaga—just to mention a few
10. MARY AND THE
ROSARY! What a beautiful prayer so
pleasing to the heart of the Mother of God and so highly recommended by the
saints the Church and the Popes. In the
Rosary is combined various forms of prayer: vocal prayer, mental prayer or
meditation, contemplation and affective prayer—the prayer of the heart. Pope Paul VI called the Rosary “the
compendium of the whole Gospel”—that is to say, it is a beautiful summary of
the Gospel, the Life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! The emblem and motto for the Oblates of the
Virgin Mary is “Maria cogita, Maria invoca!”—meaning, “think of Mary and
call/invoke Mary!” You can never go
wrong because Mary always points us to Jesus as we are recalled in the last
words that she spoke in the Gospel at the Wedding Feast of Cana: “Do whatever
he tells you!” Not until we get to
heaven will we really comprehend fully
the presence that Mary had in helping us to avoid sin, turn to Jesus,
experience interior sweetness in our souls; and all of this due to her quiet,
gentle, but constant and powerful intercession! Mary. Mother and Teacher, help
us to value the importance of deep Friendship with Jesus in prayer so that He
will be our Treasure for all eternity!