Prayer and Methods of Praying

In discussions of prayer, a controversial issue is whether generalized or specific prayer is preferred.  While some would argue that generalized prayer is alright in almost any circumstance, others contend that specific prayer is most needed.  This is not to say that one type of prayer is worse than the other.  Certain prayers handed down through Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and History are extremely relevant in today’s age.

Of course some might object that prayer is prayer, no matter what you pray.  Although I concede that prayer is good everywhere and in every situation, I still maintain that specific prayers handed down are what is required.  For example, the “Lord’s Prayer” or “Our Father” was given to us by Christ Himself, as found in Scripture.  Another example would be the “Hail Mary” or Ave Maria, formed by Scripture and in light of Tradition.  Furthermore, another example is the Rosary, which is an integral part of Christian History.

Many Christians, both Catholic and Protestant alike, assume that vocal prayer is equal to mental prayer.  On the one hand, vocal prayer has a certain ambience to it, allowing you to profess your Christian belief in God.  On the other hand, mental prayer allows a certain “silent speak” to the Lord God, in where you pray in the most secret and intimate parts of your mind and heart.

For the author of biased articles on prayer, they contradict themselves.  They contradict themselves in the fact that they are limited and closeminded to other people’s ideas on prayer, preferring their own.  At the same time that they argue their biased opinion, they also imply ignorance and subtle strife within their daily prayer life.  I agree that opinions on prayer should be stated.

This is not to say that opinions are bad, but the point I’m trying to make is when an author includes negativity about the style of prayer.  Take the fights about Vatican II for example.  The council itself was a type of universal prayer to the church, one that was answered and continues to be answered.  Each Church council is a prayer within a prayer, one that should never be squandered or misinterpreted because of dislike for certain parts of it.

One may argue that praying in front of people is “being seen by others”, and I agree on part of this because you have to have the right intention when praying, or it becomes vanity.  Their argument that vocal and public prayer is showing off is supported by new research showing the different beliefs of Christians about prayer. “92% say there is a God and 83% say this God answers prayers.” (1)

Logically concluded, you could assume that some of these people praying are trying to be seen by others.  A specific rationale is if one person is being seen in prayer, they will thus lead others to pray as well.  There are so many motives, but one thing is clear: you should never pray to be seen, but to see yourself humbled in the revealing light of God.

Another may claim that certain gestures are not needed during prayer, and I have mixed feelings about it.  On the one hand, I agree that being in the moment while praying, you may forget to do certain movements and this is okay.  You may also do other actions spontaneously, which is also okay.  On the other hand, I still insist that certain traditional and beautiful movements, like the Sign of the Cross or the Thrice Chest Strike during the Confiteor, give light and significance to one’s words.  Actions speak louder than words, so why not have holy actions lead us to the Divine Word, Jesus Christ.

In recent discussions of prayer, a controversial issue has been whether a right mindset is needed.  On the one hand, some argue that letting your mind free can draw you closer to the Lord.  From this perspective, one could see that letting the mind free could possibly set your mind to be more open to Him.

On the other hand, however, others argue that focusing your mind using sacramental and traditional prayer formulas is most pleasing to God.  In the words of St. Anthony of Padua, “the life of the body is the soul; the life of the soul is God.” (2)  According to this view, using the body to express the soul’s joy in the reflections of the mind is what draws the Holy Spirit into the Soul.

In sum, then, the issue is whether the right intention is needed or the which prayer draws us closer to God.  My own view is that both are needed: right intention and certain prayers.  Though I concede that freedom of the mind is necessary to discover hidden truths, I still maintain that structure and formula is needed to keep the mind from going off into tangents and temptations of neglect.

For example, in St. Louis de Montfort’s “Hymn No. 30, 3rd Stanza”, this beloved servant of the Lord says, “In the Blessed Sacrament God loves us so tenderly, He empties Himself completely.” (3)  So we should follow the example of Christ and empty ourselves completely to love so tenderly.  This means emptying our vices, our pains, our weakness to Christ on the Cross.  This also means we should give all our strife, all our suffering, all our temptations to the Lord on His Road to Calvary.  He was willing to bear them then, He is willing to bear them now, once and forever in the Paschal Mystery.

Although some might object that we shouldn’t subject ourselves to suffering that we do not deserve, I would reply that in choosing sin, you turn away from Him.  Suffering is the primary way we can relate to Him and His greatest moment.  The issue of right mindset versus right formula is important because it brings up the very issue of uniting our sufferings to Christ on the Road to Calvary, the Way of the Cross, the Bridge to Salvation.

Works Cited

Mary’s Lullaby to Jesus

O little one, precious one,
You give joy to my life.
One day it shall be fully known,
You will relieve all of our strife.

O little one, precious one,
What wonders you do show.
By laughing here and cooing there,
Such a smile that surely glows.

O little one, precious one,
Sleeping soundly in your bed.
Know you are safe and sound,
Rest now your beloved head.

O little one, precious one,
Let me tell you something true.
Rest assured, when times are tough,
I will forever and always love you.

Pray More, Complain Less…

There once was a boy who prayed a simple prayer,
He said, “Lord, let me change the world this day.”
The Lord answered back, with a parent’s loving stare,
“My child, just find time to simply pray.”

His childhood went by, for this boy full of life,
He laughed, he cried, his joy seemed to sometimes fade.
The one thing he thought in ignorant strife,
Was how to just simply pray.

His mind was tormented and his attention vanished,
Thinking he needed to say prayers in a specific way.
The one thing he thought as his concentration diminished,
“How will I just simply pray?”

He grew up into a man, making many decisions,
Going about his daily duties was more important than play.
The one thing he needed to do while hoarding provisions,
Was to just simply pray.

Then it came to a point when he was through,
He was tired of excuses, never knowing what to say.
Falling on his knees and saying, “Lord I give all to you.”
The Lord said, “My child, this is how you simply pray.”

Christianity’s “Political” Labels

There are three specific labels unintentionally used by religious people to classify themselves and others: traditionalist, centrist, and modernist.  Each label is truly unintentional, not meaning to cause harm to a way of thinking, but to classify Christians into specific and understandable groups.  This short essay will examine a summary of each group, hoping to give the reader an insight into why religion and politics do not belong together.

The term “traditionalist” is subconsciously intended to be in conjunction with “strict” or “stringent”.  Some people see traditionalists as individuals who follow rules to the letter, without any room for growth or development, essentially stopping progress in the Christian faith.  On the contrary, many of these supposed “traditionalists” are actually good-hearted believers wanting to keep to the established traditions.

The term “modernist” is usually given to those who are seen as “radical” or “dynamic”.  These type of people are thought to not hold to traditions, but are willing to change any rule to suit themselves.  Usually associated with selfish, they are associated with trying to be too progressive.  On the contrary, many of the  “modernists” just want to see progress and have no intention of hurting the faith.

The term “centrist” is unintentionally associated with people of both traditional and modern thinking. Some would say that these individuals cannot make a decision one way or the other.  Therefore, the “centrists” would be thought of as apathetic and indecisive.  On the contrary, many of the “centrists” have carefully thought of the issue on hand.  They have decided to neither be too strict or too lenient, but right in the middle of belief.

There are mixed feelings that are in my mind about this issue of “religious politics” in Christianity.  In my mindset, allowing the mind to subconsciously create terms for something fully beyond comprehension is useless.  For instance, these heated issues in Christianity take time to resolve.  Simply slapping a label on them does no good for the faith.  In addition, not allowing the term to develop based solely on opinion doesn’t bode well for those looking to become Christians.  Some might object, of course, that terms shouldn’t bother a person.  Yet I would argue that words have more power than we realize.  Overall then, I believe that time is needed to define the thing itself.  An important point to make given this clear fact: the title doesn’t make the object, the object determines the title.

Sacramental Aspects

Through formula by Trinitarian means,
The matter is water, universally seen.
The change is to the soul to fully cleans,
The intent is to baptize, to save from eternal ends.

Through formula by ministerial action,
The matter is contrition and absolution given.
The change is to the soul to correct and cleans,
The intent is to heal, to forgive all the sins.

Through formula said with words truly Divine,
The matter is unleavened bread and grape wine.
The change is to the soul to sustain and heal,
The intent is to transubstantiate, the Eucharistic meal.

Through formula to seal an indelible mark,
The matter is oil blessed and priestly hands that impart.
The change is to the soul to increase and complete.
The intent is to seal with the Holy Spirit, a miraculous feat.

Through formula to become matrimonially unified,
The matter is consent and covenant that is glorified,
The change is to the soul of both husband and wife,
The intent is to freely choose, this sacrificial life.

Through formula to consecrate one’s self to ministry,
The matter is laying on of bishop’s hands with a specific prayer,
The change is to the soul to become transparent,
The intent is to freely give, to make Christ more apparent.

Through formula to give graces of the Holy Spirit by the priest,
The matter is holy oil anointing and hand imposition,
The change is to the soul to prepare for journey’s end,
The intent is to give time, for the person to make amends.

Confession: The Joy of Healing

“Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” (Mt 8:26)
“Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?” (Mt 9:5)
“Go,  and from now on do not sin any more.” (Jn 8:11c)

There is a sweet and supreme joy in being healed, not just in body, but in soul as well.  To know that what is one, body and soul, is healed fully should be cause for celebration.  We are not just healed in one or the other during this Ultimate Prescription from the Divine Physician, but in both.  As the soul becomes healed, the body can be allowed to mend in many ways.  The mind becomes clearer, the heartbeat softens, and nerves relax. Therefore, my Christian family, we should take part in this most joyous of opportunities to come face-to-face with the merciful Lord Jesus through the Sacrament.  In this we become less terrified, more trusting, and able to go and sin no more.

Junction of Human Aspects

I) Introduction
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”  (Mk 12:20 NABRE)

Let us examine this verse, taking into mind the different aspects in which we are to love the Lord.  In the previous verse, we can note Jesus saying “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!”  This inserts, into context, the command given to us by Jesus.  In short, the command is “Come to Me.”

II) Concerning The Heart:
One might state, “I do not possess enough love within to follow Someone as great as the Lord.”  They might also object, “Even if I did possess such love within, it would be too weak or not stable enough to simply follow Him.”  The objection might also be, “Would He truly accept me for who I am?”

On the contrary, these statements could be summarized by a simple phrase “In the Lord God, you are safe, secured, and sought after.”

Therefore, I say you are safe in the amount of love you possess now, as He will give you more grace which amplifies and matures that present love.  I would say as well, your love (no matter its stability at the present time) has every opportunity to grow if you let Him work within you.  Furthermore, it could be said He will always pursue you, patiently and perfectly.

III) Concerning the Soul:
One might say, “My soul is covered in a multitude of sins and imperfections, what good am I to the Lord?”  Another objection would be, “Even if my sins could be forgiven, I am not sure if I could forgive myself.”  Even still, an objection would be, “What if I give up later, how am I to recover from failure?”

On the contrary, such statements are wrapped in a mesh of despair in God’s mercy and an ignorance of God’s justice, as well as a negligence of accepting God’s love.

Therefore, I say you must realize that God forgives all sins, so long as we are truly sorry and repentant.  I would also say to you, you must forgive yourself and let these things go.  How else will you be able to move on and grow to who God wants you to be?  Also, what must be realized is you will fall, you will make mistakes, but the fact that you confessed your sins in the proper way is the first step.  He told us to sin no more, so we should take Him up on these words.

IV) Concerning the Mind:
One might protest, “In thinking such thoughts that blaspheme the Lord, there is no hope for me.”  Another such protest might be, “How will I help others if I cannot control myself?”  Furthermore, they might say, “I am tormented by hurting Him so, what shall I do?”

On the contrary, what statements you have produced are deeply ingrained within your thinking.  Such thoughts have their roots in other issues, which must be handled with His Guidance.

Therefore, I say you must never despair, as He knows every inch of your being.  After all, He was the One who created you, so this Creator fully know His works.  I also would state that you must trust in His Will and Timing always, as He has you in His Hands.  Further, I would say you should be glad you realize wrong from right, as some tend to ignore such personal discovery.  Trust in Him and all will be well.

V) Concerning the Strength:
One might tell, “When I fall out of grace, I am too weak to get back up and stand on my own feet.”  They might also say, “Even when I get back up, I am unsure of my direction toward the Lord.”  Even still, they would protest, “In my darkest hours, I feel so weak and alone.”

On the contrary, what you have just revealed is exactly what He has intended.  Your strength is a grace given by He who created it.  Embrace this and do well to serve God always.

Therefore, I say you will fall and make mistakes, but never assume that you are alone.  He is there to put you on the feet that He created and guide you along the steps He has planned.  I would also say, are we truly sure of the direction unless we pray to Him with such pure intention?  Finally, I would say that when the Lord is allowing you to go through “darkness”, He intends for you to see the Light of Truth.  He wants you to find the fullness of Truth each and every day, never wavering or relenting from pursuing Him.

VI) Conclusion:
I feel the need to conclude with a simple 4-line stanza, that I hope gives insight into my intention into all this:

You who walk with the Lord,
Who always and truly seek the Word,
Will always see Faith, Hope, and Love,
From the Lord God Almighty, Who resides Up Above.