Learn by Topic: Prayer

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“Pray/Prayer” – From Latin: precari “ask earnestly, beg”; “obtained by prayer.”

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) – Prayer is a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God (CCC 2558).  Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God…humility is the foundation of prayer for we are all beggars before God (CCC 2559).  Prayer is the response of faith to the free promise of salvation and also a response of love to the thirst of the only Son of God (CCC 2561).  It is the heart, in covenant with God, that prays.  If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain (CCC 2562).

Please see the CCC (Part 4 : 2558-2865) for the Church’s beautiful instruction on how to engage in a life of Christian Prayer.

Jesus – Man of Prayer (For more detail on Christ’s prayer life, see CCC 2598-2622).

  • Begins His human prayer life in the womb of the Virgin Mary – One 2nd century tradition tells us that Mary was born to a devout long-childless Jewish couple who presented Mary to be raised as a temple virgin in Jerusalem, a life steeped in prayer and worship.[1] In Mary’s beautiful Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), the Blessed Mother shows her devotion through her great gift of prayer.  From His conception, Jesus enjoyed Mary’s voice of prayer in the womb.
  • Jesus is immersed in Jewish prayer life as a child – As devout Jews, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the synagogue regularly and to the Temple in Jerusalem every year (Luke 2:41-42).  He learned the “formulas of prayer from His mother” (CCC 2599) and was very familiar with the beautiful Jewish prayer traditions, including the prayerful singing of Psalms.
  • At 12, He goes to the Temple to learn, teach and pray – At the age of 12, Jesus remains at the Temple in Jerusalem for 3 days (Luke 2:41-50).  He sat among the teachers and “all who heard Him were amazed.”  While He was “in His Father’s house”, Jesus would have participated in the worshipful prayer in what Isaiah calls ‘a house of prayer for all nations’ (Isa 56:7).
  • Jesus makes His rich personal prayer life a priority – Jesus prays in solitude (Mark 1:25; Luke 5:16), often in the mountains (Matt 14:23) sometimes through the night (Luke 6:12) and in the early morning (Matt 14:23).  Jesus often directs His eyes upward towards heaven when praying (Matt 14:19; John 17:1).  He uses a variety of forms of prayer including vocal prayer, meditation on the scriptures and contemplation of the Father. “His words and works are the visible manifestation of His prayer life in secret” (CCC 2602).
  • Jesus has an intimate prayer relationship with the Father – Jesus enjoys a direct and personal dialog with the Father, calling Him ‘Abba’.  He speaks to and is heard by the Father (Mark 14:36) and the Father speaks exclusively to Jesus in a direct fashion (Matt 11:27). Sometimes, other’s can hear God’s words to Jesus (Matt 3:17; Mark 9:7).
  • Jesus prays with the Holy Spirit – The Holy Spirit descends at Mary’s conception of Jesus (Luke 1:35), the Holy Spirit descends on Him at the Baptism (Luke 3:21), calls Jesus into the wilderness of the Temptation (Luke 4:1) and Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit (John 14:16).  “The Holy Spirit, whose anointing permeates our whole being, is the interior Master of Christian prayer (CCC 2672).
  • Jesus teaches how He prays with the Our Father – The Our Father contains the essence of Jesus’ personal approach to prayer and teaches the essentials of the Christian prayer life (CCC 2759-2865).
  • His other teachings about prayer reflect Jesus’ own prayer life – The Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7) and multiple parables teaches about Christ’s own prayer life including the importance of persistence, watchfulness, humility and accepting the Father’s will.
  • Jesus prays before decisive moments in His mission – Jesus prays to the Father prior to major turning points in His life, including: His baptism (Matt 3:16), the selection of the Apostles (Luke 6:12), at Peter’s confession (Luke 9:18), before the miracles of the Feeding of the 5000 (John 6:11) and the raising of Lazarus (John 11:41-42), the Transfiguration (Luke 9:29), during His ‘Hour of Prayer’ (John 17), so that Peter’s faith remains strong (Luke 22:32) and before/during His Passion (Luke 23:34; Matt 27:46; Luke 23:46).

[1] Scott Hahn, Catholic Bible Dictionary (New York, Doubleday, 2009). 584.

Carl_Heinrich_Bloch<_The_Resserection copy - December 2012The ‘Orphan’ Epidemic

There is an orphan epidemic in the modern world.  Many children in the modern world have, in practical terms, been abandoned, even when they have one or both parents.  Increasing numbers of women (with men in passive agreement) are bearing children out of wedlock (absent fathers) and/or through artificial insemination (anonymous fathers).  Many marry only to divorce.  As a result, a large and growing number of children are being raised without a father; fatherless orphans.  Children are also being abandoned into virtual orphanhood; the vocation of parenting is being outsourced to hired day care providers, teachers in secular schools and by modern media.   Many adults are also embracing orphanhood through a rejection of God the Father with growing numbers of people choosing atheism, agnosticism or ‘casualism’ in faith.  Orphans abound.

The rejection of earthly fathers and the Heavenly Father yields great suffering.  Modern culture is showing the negative effects of orphanhood by declines in morality and human happiness: idolatry (materialism, cult of celebrity), promiscuity, addictions (pornography, substances), the murder of abortion and euthanasia and the rejection of marriage and children, etc.   Great numbers of  today’s ‘orphans’ are relentless and depressed, feeling the discouraging impact of empty lives; the reality of their mortality weighs on their hearts and minds; the unavoidable issue of their eternal salvation weighs on their souls.  The faithless orphans of the world bear a great burden.

Jesus Christ Revealer of Our Father

Jesus Christ comes to reveal God the Father to an orphaned world.  (more…)

Sermon_On_The_Mount_Copenhagen

In today’s Gospel from the Holy Mass (Matt 6:1-6; 16-18), Jesus offers a direct criticism for the confused culture of the 1st century: (more…)

What follows are notes from Msgr. Aloysius Callaghan’s talk at St. Michael Catholic Church in St. Michael Minnesota on February 25, 2011.  Msgr. Callaghan is the Rector of The St. Paul Seminary.   Please see Msgr. Callaghan’s bio here: www.stthomas.edu/spssod/pdf/cv/CallaghanCV-2009.pdf

In Chapter 11 of St. Luke’s Gospel we find the art and practice of prayer.  “Lord teach us to pray.”  Luke’s Gospel is a Gospel of prayer: Luke shows us Jesus at prayer before the great events of His life.

–     Jesus prayed at His baptism

–     Jesus prayed before His first conflict with the Pharisees

–     Jesus prayed before His choice of the 12 Apostles

In Luke we see Jesus praying just before He asks the disciples who He is.

In Luke we see Jesus praying prior to His first prediction of the Passion.

–     Jesus prays at the Transfiguration

–     Jesus prays on the cross

–     Jesus promises to pray for Peter when Peter faced the hour of his great temptation

Jesus Christ witnessed prayer over and over again at significant moments in His ministry and regularly in deep meditation.  (Christ’s disciples had ample opportunity to observe Jesus at prayer.)

The Gospels, however, say little about what His prayer was like.  We do have some clues:

In  Christ’s Last Supper discourse He publicly prays to His Father with warmth and intimacy.

My brothers, in the 11th Chapter of Luke we hear Jesus teaching His followers to pray the Our Father.  The Apostles were moved by the beauty and obvious depth of Christ’s prayer so they asked Him how to pray.

Jesus responded by teaching them the Our Father.

–     Prayer is a lifting up of the mind and heart to God.

–     Prayer is meant to enlarge our capacity for happiness.

–     Prayer is an exercise of our inborn desire to be happy.

Pope Benedict in his book Jesus of Nazareth gives beautiful insights into Jesus and prayer.

He notes in Chapter 5 of this work that God is not some distant stranger, rather He shows us His face in Jesus.  In what Jesus does and wills, we come to know the mind and will of God Himself.

The Holy Father points out that if being human is essentially about relation to God, it is clear that speaking with and listening to God is an essential part of it.

The Holy Father refers to Matthew’s Gospel and the Lord’s prayer.  In the Gospel of Matthew the Evangelist leads up to the “Our Father” with a short catechesis on prayer.  He warns against false forms of prayer.

–     Prayer is not an occasion for showing off before others.  It requires the discretion that is essential to a relationship of love.

–     Prayer is not chatter or verbiage that smothers the Spirit – a recitation of habitual formulas while the mind is somewhere else entirely.

Prayer, at its core being, is silent inward communication with God.  It requires nourishment and that is why we need articulated prayer in words, images or thoughts.

Praying deepens our communion of being with God. Our praying can and should arise above all from our heart, from our needs, our hopes, our joys, our suffering, from our shame over sin and from our gratitude for the good.  It can and should be a wholly personal prayer.

The Our Father begins with God and then, from that starting point, shows us the way toward being human!  The Our Father is the prayer of our identity as followers of Christ.

There are some 20 original prayers of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke and everyone of them begins by addressing God as “Father.”  It is a title of relationship, of nearness, intimacy, and trust.

In the “Our Father” this prayer of Jesus takes us towards intimacy and transcendence at the same time.  “Our Father Who art in Heaven.”

Saint Teresa of Avila, when asked by someone what should she do for contemplative prayer, replied, “Say the Our Father . . . and spend an hour at it.”

The Our Father is a complete expression of the various movements of the Christian disciple toward God and the world.