Monday, November 16, 2009

Prayer Book Preface (rough draft)

[I've just about got the preface finished.  It is in rough form at the moment.  So far the prayer book is about 100 pages.  It is expected to be about 150 pages in length.  I put some of this on here already, but anyway, enjoy.]


In the course of his career at [JHS]  a student is required to read more than sixty books. Many are textbooks, others are novels, biographies, histories and reference works. Why another book? The answer lies in why we read books. Some we read for knowledge and wisdom, some for facts and information, some for entertainment and relaxation. Still others we read to learn techniques: how to set up a model railroad, how to improved your tennis game. This book falls into the last category; it is a “how-to” book a kin to a tool kit.

All of us who believe in God feel that it is essential to communicate with Him. But the question is: How? Sometimes we try reciting vocal prayers, such as the Lord’s Prayer of the Hail Mary. Bur then, because of their familiarity, they become boring and meaningless. Sometimes we try just talking to God, and we find that we go blank and our minds are over flowing with distracting thoughts. The purpose of this small book, therefore, is to help overcome these problems by suggesting a variety of topics for prayer and a variety of methods of prayer.

However, each person must come to God in his own way. These prayers are given merely as catalysts or pump-primers for our personal prayer. Prayer is the point of contact between us and God. Through All the Days of Life is intended to facilitate that contact. Simply to read this book is not enough, for prayer does not consist in reading words to God.  Rather, the words of these prayers should trigger thoughts and feeling within us that are our own. Only then will we be approaching the point of contact which we call prayer.

But full contact is made only when God responds. Prayer is not a monologue we recite to God. It is a dialogue in which each speaks. Therefore listening on our part is an essential element of our prayer. How do we recognize His voice? He often does not speak in lightning or thunder or in a burning bush. HE will speak gently in the stillness and silence of our human hearts. When old words take on new meaning, when our insight deepens, when we feel a fresh surge of courage and patience to face old problems, when love becomes our way of life, we have heard God speaking to us and we are praying.

Still, questions about prayer remain.

Why Pray?

Out of all the things in life that we can do why should and why do we need to take time out of our day to pray. Why Pray? There are any number of reasons on why we should and need to pray. In his Prayer Primer, Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M. gives us six concise reasons to why pray:

1. Conversation with God.

2. Like a coin on one side we pray to give the God who created us thanks. On the other side, we pray to express sorrow, contrition and to seek forgiveness from our Creator.

3. To ask God to help us become the people the world needs. The single and best thing that we can do for the world is to become a saint of God for the world. The world does not need another Doctor, Lawyer, Plumber, Politician, Teacher, etc. . . The world needs men of virtue. The world needs saints.

4. To ask God for the things we need.

 5. To bond with God, creation and humanity more perfectly so as to spread God’s good news, and in doing so we become good for others and our goodness in turn rubs off on those we meet.

6. To imitate Christ. The call of every Christian at its most fundamental level is imitate Christ. Saints, whom we all hope to be with one day, are excellent imitators of Christ.

Why is Prayer Difficult?

Because we have not prayed most of our life and as a result our spiritual faculties have atrophied, which is contrary with our bodies and athletics which we have been using and doing since a small child. In fact, I am sure there are many people reading this who learned to throw a ball before learning to speak.

As a result, we now need a kind of spiritual therapy to get our spiritual faculties into working order. Just like physical therapy, it is best to start small and build gradually till the faculties are properly strengthened. Moreover, no kind of therapy can be successful without a concrete plan of action. So when starting your spiritual therapy, make a plan and stick with it. Your plan might be as simple as praying a morning offering on waking, a visit to the chapel during lunch and an Our Father before hopping into bed, all prayed with sincerity.

Remember, simplicity is of great importance. Don't expect to move mountains with your first prayers. Above all, keep your prayer simple!

How do I pray?

This prayer book is not concerned with answering this question. For it is like asking, "How does a person (or child) begin to speak?" Simply, you begin by just doing it. The child who utters his first stumbling words knows not what he means or says and does so only out of imitation, but those stumbling words fill the parent with joy and excitement at the mere fact that the child has spoke. It is the same with us and God. Often we stumble through our first prayers not knowing the meaning of the words we pray other than knowing that we must pray, and this action fills God with great joy and excitement that His child has spoken with Him even if just for a moment.

Also, the only prayer master is the Holy Spirit. This book offers suggestions, vocal prayers and techniques to use in prayer, but ultimately it is you who prayers and the Holy Spirit who teaches you to pray.

What is Prayer?

Too often prayer is seen as a last resort. "All we can do now is pray" is a phrase uttered time and again in moments of tragedy, as if praying is the thing humanity does only after humanity has failed itself. The truth is, humanity fails itself on a regular basis and therefore, prayer must be the activity to which humanity first turns.

St. John Damascene once said, "Prayer is the raising of one's mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God." In other words, prayer is the practice of putting oneself in the presence of God. It is akin to two people, say a husband and wife, best friends, or a girlfriend and a boyfriend who enjoy just spending time with each other and without the passage of words between them (though if words pass then that is no problem).

In a word, prayer is about relationship. It is about our relationships with God and how that relationship impacts your relationships with other members of the mystical body of Christ.

Every relationship is a process that begins like a seed planted that then with proper work sprouts and with more time and attention the sprout develops into a full grown plant and after more time it buds, blooms, and produces fruit. However, this only happens if the plant is given time to develop with the proper nutrition and attention.

There are no shortcuts in developing a life of prayer. If you say you do not have time it is because you do not care enough about your relationship with God who is the maker of time and Who gives you time. There are 86,400 seconds in a day, and you say that there is not enough time in the day to take one second out of the 86,400 that God has given you today to give a sincere "Thanks."

What are the different ways I can pray?

Prayer within the Catholic tradition is broad. Though there are five modes or forms of prayer that sum up most of our prayers. They are:

1. Blessing and Adoration—We bless God for blessing us and acknowledge ourselves as created before our Creator.

2. Prayer of Petition—The most common form of prayer where we ask, beg, plead, and beseech God for things we need. Often spontaneous

3. Prayers of Intercessions—Prayers that are prayed for or on behalf of others.

4. Prayers of Thanksgiving—Prayers that give thanks to God. Its most complete form and expression found in the Eucharistic celebration.

5. Prayers of Praise—Prayers that acknowledge God for who He is in his power, glory, and happiness.

For more information on these forms of prayer see the Catechism of the Catholic Church §2623-2642

What are the different ways I can express these forms prayers?

There are three ways to express the forms of prayer:

1. Vocal Prayer—The most common expression of prayer that makes up the backbone of Christian prayer. When the disciples asked Christ how to prayer, He taught them a vocal prayer. We express one of the forms of prayer using our voice. However, many words does not make vocal prayer successful. A contrite and sincere heart is what must also be at the core of vocal prayer. We are to pray every prayer with all of our heart, mind and body, which vocal prayer expresses the union of these.

2. Meditative Prayer—In meditation, which is primarily a mental form of prayer, the person praying considers using his mind to seek and understand the mysteries of the Christian faith by using their memory, thought, imagination, and emotions.

3. Contemplative Prayer—An expression of prayer that puts us in union and communion with God Himself. Often in this expression of prayer, words pass away and the person praying just sits and enjoys being in the presence of God’s Love.

It is very possible that during prayer time and using one prayer a person can pass from one expression and into others. For instance, a person may pray vocally the Our Father. Then after vocally prayer the Our Father go back and consider what it means to call God Our Father. Then after the time spent considering God as Our Father, the person in prayer might, through God’s grace, move into Contemplative Prayer where he merely sits before God’s Fatherly Love. For more information and a more in depth detailed description of the expressions of prayer see the Catechism of the Catholic Church §2700-2724

Why aren’t my prayers answered?

There are a number of reason for this but are primarily summed up into two reasons. First we can be praying badly without a contrite and sincere heart. Whereby, our prayers become empty glasses instead of pitchers full of meaning. Second, it only seems that our prayers are not answered because in our prayers we ask God for things we do not need. Therefore, we fail to have the eyes to see that sometimes God answers our prayers but that answer is “no”.

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