St. Teresa of Avila is one of the premier teachers on prayer in the history of the Catholic faith. She defined many methods, teachings and expressions of the life of Christian prayer, but she summed up all of her teachings with this simple quote:
“Contemplative prayer […] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.”
Prayer is essential to living a full, Catholic life. The central communal form of prayer for the Church is the Mass, but there are many forms of personal prayer that one can grow in in order to grow closer to our Lord.
“Through his Word, God speaks to man. By words, mental or vocal, our prayer takes flesh. Yet it is most important that the heart should be present to him to whom we are speaking in prayer: ‘Whether or not our prayer is heard depends not on the number of words, but on the fervor of our souls’” (CCC 2700).
Vocal prayers such as the Our Father, which Jesus taught us Himself, and the Hail Mary help us to engage our whole self (physically and spiritually) in prayer.
“Meditation is above all a quest. The mind seeks to understand the why and how of the Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking. The required attentiveness is difficult to sustain. We are usually helped by books, and Christians do not want for them: the Sacred Scriptures, particularly the Gospels, holy icons, liturgical texts of the day or season, writings of the spiritual fathers, works of spirituality, the great book of creation, and that of history the page on which the “today” of God is written” (CCC 2705).
The scriptures especially hold a significant place in the meditative prayer of the Christian. Prayerful reading, or lectio divina, is a way of engaging in meditative prayer with the scriptures. There are four simple parts to this type of prayer.
- Lectio– the actual reading of the scriptures, slowly and reflectively
- Meditatio– when a word or phrase sticks out to you, you can pause and reflect on what that particular word or phrase may mean to you
- Oratio– we recognize that when God highlights a word or phrase to us, it is Him trying to communicate with us. With that in mind, we begin to speak with Him about what we are meditating about.
- Contemplatio– this is a gift that God gives us. This is when He takes over the prayer completely and we can just sit with Him in peace.
These aren’t steps to follow, but all elements of meditative prayer with the scriptures. If you desire to begin a prayer life an easy place to begin is in the gospels. Aim for 15-20 minutes a day. Take a journal with you into prayer so you can jot down your thoughts to help yourself focus and remember what you’re praying about.
Prayer is a big concept with a lot of great resources and perspectives. Holy Family offers many opportunities for individuals to grow in their lives of prayer. Make sure to search our site for upcoming events and groups that you can attend to grow in your prayer life. As always, if you have any questions or if you want to discuss your prayer life with someone, please contact us.