How to Pray: Part 1 – What is Prayer?

I often hear people say that they don’t know how to pray, or that they just don’t know what to say to God when they do pray.  It can be intimidating to talk to God when you have no experience at it.  Over the course of the next week I plan on presenting a series that hopefully will explain first what prayer actually is, and then I’ll cover some of the different forms of prayer.

So what is prayer?  I’m sure you’ve heard that you are supposed to have a relationship with God.  I hear it all the time, but no one really tells you what that means or how to do it.  Well that relationship is called prayer.

St. Therese of Lisieux said, “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and love, embracing both trial and joy.” St. John Damascene said, “prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.”  Neither of these definitions are a formula.  It is not a say this, then this, and conclude with this, and God will hear you and answer you.  No, prayer is a surge, a look, a cry, an embrace.  It is not limited to the time you spend on your knees before bed or a memorized prayer mouthed by rote.  Think of it as an awareness of God in everything that you do.  Don’t just wash the dishes, but wash the dishes with love for God and those who will use them.  Do your work with love of God who gave you everything and your life will become a prayer.

Humility is the foundation of a life of prayer.  Don’t approach God out of pride or out of your own will.  Don’t think that you can control God.  Don’t think that if you pray “correctly” you can bend God to your will.  Instead realize that prayer is the act of bending your will to God’s.  Scripture reminds us that, “we do not know how to pray as we ought.”

Whether out loud in words, or in the mind, or in gestures, it is the whole person who prays.  Scripture, however, says that prayer springs from the soul, or the spirit, but most often (over a thousand times) it says the heart.  The heart is the  seat of being, our hidden center where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter where go to meet God, for the heart is the dwelling place of God.

I will conclude with a quote from the Catechism, “prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit.  The grace of the Kingdom is the union of the entire holy and royal Trinity…with the whole human spirit.  Thus, the life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with him.”

How to Pray: Part 2 – Vocal Prayer


One response to “How to Pray: Part 1 – What is Prayer?

  1. Jareth, your writing on prayer is really good! I am going through a trial of my faith. I do not understand why! It is really depressing & it is painful. Pray 4 me please.

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