Monday, October 5, 2015

The Thing About Prayer


A few months back, I wrote a post entitled True Belief and True Repentance.  In it, I argued that the holy life must be guarded by the graces of faith and confession.

Today I'm going back to the topic of faith, because I think it is so closely tied to this question.  Do we trust blindly?  How do we find direction, what does faith have anything to do with it? It's a heavy one. And so, I want to tag on another essentialism for the life of true faith. And that, friends, would be the importance of prayer.

Can we ever stop praying?

Let me make a caveat. It is hard to write about stuff like this. What if I put all of these feelings about prayer out there, only to get disappointed or even...gasp.... hurt by the response? Or, on another hand, what if I stay silent? Silence is-unfortunately- almost always the thing to do and the automatic response I see among friends and colleagues on the internet and on places like Facebook and Twitter. It feels awkward at best to broach the subject.

But that brings me to an important question.... should we speak? Should we pray? And while we're at it, what is meant by prayer, anyway? And what's the difference between talking about the "prayer life" as a Catholic and "prayer life" as a non-Catholic?

Speaking with a group of IRL friends just two days before I had Annabel, we talked a little bit about prayer.

I was eating delicious Hazelnut Buttercreams at a fancy local coffee shop, a friend brought up  her need for more prayer in her own life. I shoved the last bite of my treat in my mouth and said, “I know my prayer life hasn’t been very good lately.... I’ve been anxious. And very, very irritable!” I'm sure it wasn't just the hormones making me grumpy.  Laughing, (and obviously without a clue as to how my birth with Annabel would actually go), we all began to share about this very personal aspect of our lives.
The Shrine of the Virgin of the Poor in New Hope, TN

We talked about the various habits among our group of friends. One friend- a cradle Catholic- said she would add our baby to her “nightly rosary.” Another Mom- a convert- said that praying the rosary at an Adoration chapel was such a sweet respite and a time of peace in the midst of her hectic schedule as a Mom with some kids in school and some at home. A third friend- also a convert- encouraged us to pray a novena in honor of the Blessed Mother together... not in person, but yet in unity. It was a refreshing conversation, with some very cool friends whom God has in my life right now. I have been blessed with some great friends and an even greater community in my town.

And I noticed something while we were sipping decaf coffee together that night. Talking about prayer is totally different when you’re Catholic.  We don’t “take prayer requests,” we ask for “intentions.” We don’t do ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication,) we pray novenas. We do not usually say things like, “Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to come be with us, for where two or more are gathered in his name…” we say, “Hail Mary.”

To Pray or Not to Pray

But... that's the thing about prayer. Prayer is just as much and every bit as essential a part of our lives. Yes, we pray to Mary- that her intercession to the Father would cry out on our behalf. Yes, we pray to the saints- that their intercession and the patron saint- of whatever our ailment- would cry out to God. Because they are holy men and women, their prayers are "powerful and effective."  We need prayer.  And let's take it further: we need to be praying people, because as God's people, we need guidance. In a world where Bill Nye and the public school system (or, the secular forms of "science" in this modern age) are teaching our kids that Life isn't Sacred, we need to be praying people. It's not a choice.

And guess what? It’s not crazy, either. Prayer isn't wacko. A few years ago, I would have been (and was) totally weirded out by all of this. Hail Mary... what? What in the world did it mean, does it mean, why in the world does it matter to me? In light of Pope Francis coming to visit our country, I feel like it is my rightful duty- or at least in my best interest- to explain our crazy not crazy ways. It is different, but it is every bit as beautiful, humbling, and powerful as a Catholic to pray as it was a Protestant.  And to do so with a Communion of Saints- here in our body of believers on earth, and with those who are already in Heaven- it’s really something, Watson.

I’m thankful and blessed to be a part of this huge, beautiful Catholic community here in my city, and abroad in the world. In my experience, my own is a sweet little spot, a wonderful smattering of real community and real friendship. As we link our hearts to the world and to our Catholic history, may we impact and evangelize with our witness, and may we change the world through our prayers.

How can I pray better?

* Bookmark the mysteries of the rosary.
* For those learning how to pray the rosary, bookmark this page.
* In daily life, apply your struggles to the mysteries. For example, if you are struggling with a hard situation, such as envy or bitterness, pray The Sorrowful Mysteries with the intention of this difficult person, friend, situation, or experience.
* If you have a desire to pray, with no specific intention, or if your family wants to do a nightly rosary ..."as suggested by the Pope St. John Paul the Great, the Joyful mysteries are said on Monday and Saturday, the Luminous on Thursday, the Sorrowful on Tuesday and Friday, and the Glorious on Wednesday and Sunday (with this exception: Sundays of Christmas season - The Joyful; Sundays of Lent - Sorrowful." (fromrosary center.org)

And instead of being frozen into silence, let's open up, for the sake of the New Evangelization, praying that we would have guidance in the how and in the why of sharing, and in the how often. I feel like if I stay silent about the things that matter most to me,  am I allowing myself to be held hostage by fear? Finding a way to write about it is preferable, from where I'm standing. Finding a way to speak my thoughts is better. But ever, I write. And I have to write about what is important to me, be it motherhood, wifehood, my interests, or my faith. Because I have learned from the past that saying something about prayer is better than saying nothing about prayer. And so, I speak.

What do you think?  Should we continue praying to discern the right course of action in the public sphere?


6 comments:

Mary Lenaburg said...

so well written and thought out. Just what I needed to hear this day.

Annie said...

Love this :) yes, we absolutely need prayer. It's not about changing God or His will in our lives; its about changing our hearts and growing ever more in union with Him. It's meant to change us :) and it so, so does.

Tacy said...

Thanks, Mary!

Tacy said...

I love your insights, Annie! Thanks for the comment!

Michele Chronister said...

YES! I love this! Praying for each other makes for especially strong friendships!

Michele Chronister said...

YES! I love this! Praying for each other makes for especially strong friendships!