Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Basic Training For Catholic Jedi: How To Pray!

Listen Up Catholic Jedi Academicians!
Form a single line and step up
and take a copy of your
Basic Training Manual:
HOW TO PRAY!



At ease, by the way.  
As a Priest and Spiritual Director, I’ve been invited several times to speak about Prayer and Spirituality. These are pretty wide topics to cover. I usually narrow down the subject matter. Here are my reasons why: 
  1.  I  do not teach people how to pray. Because,  I   cannot! 
    It is the HOLY SPIRIT Who
     teaches us to pray!
  2. Prayer is not primarily a matter of our willing it, nor of our thinking it, nor of our emotions. Prayer is never a direct result of some sort of instruction or homily or book.
These said, my intention is to offer our matriculated Catholic Jedi Academicians some basic training hints -- better said: Some advice on prayer, and how to prepare your heart to pray. This is essential basic training for any true follower of Jesus Christ! 
Yes, I know: you hate basic training: doing spiritual calisthenics and moral push-ups and ten-mile walks with Our Lord, etc.  But doing this basic training will help create a disposition within you, a constant mood or temperament, that keeps your heart open to every action of the Holy Spirit.

To do this, I have narrowed your basic training down to exploring these questions:

  • What Is A “Spiritual Life”?
  • What Is Prayer?
  • How Should We Pray?
  • How Can We Pray Always?


What Is A “Spiritual Life”?


Twenty years ago, in American society, if you asked someone what their religion was, you would get simple answers: “Catholic”, Jewish”, “Methodist”, “Evangelical”, and so on. But, not these days. The old categories don't seem to work, because the religious landscape has changed so much. Today, ask someone, "What's your religion?" and you won’t get a simple answer. These days, many people describe themselves as "spiritual but not religious"— as spiritual seekers who are ANTI--religion, who like Jesus but hate His Church.

These days, many people describe themselves as “spiritual.” So, what does THAT mean? For these folks, the word, “spiritual” has been deliberately emptied of anything to do with God. The word, “spiritual” has become highly subjective and political.

“I am spiritual but not religious.”
Next time someone says to you, “I am spiritual but not religious,” let them know -- as the Catholic Jedi that you are -- that they are speaking an oxymoron, a statement that is self-contradictory:

* Like “Agree to disagree" or "A little pregnant" or "Boneless ribs” or "Sinfully good."
* Or “A Brief Homily”
* Or “I am spiritual but not religious.”

You cannot be “spiritual” without being religious. 
There is no spirituality without God. Your spiritual life, your spirituality, IS your basic, practical, habitual attitude toward God and toward your fellow human beings. Your spiritual life results from how you understand and live out your religious faith in Christ and His Catholic Church.

To have a healthy spiritual life means that you are holy!
• God calls all of us to become holy!
• God demands that we be holy, as He is holy.
• His call to holiness is universal – open to everyone.
• His call to holiness is personal – unique and individualized to each of us.
• So my prayer and your prayer will have similarities and connections to each other,
• But your prayer will be unique and individualized for you.

Human beings simply cannot be “spiritual” without being religious.
  • There is no spirituality without God.
  • Your spiritual life, your spirituality, is your basic, practical, habitual attitude toward God and toward your fellow human beings.
  • Our spiritual life results from how we understand and live out our religious faith in Christ and His Catholic Church.
To have a healthy spiritual life means that you are holy:
  • God calls all of us to become holy!
  • God demands that we be holy, as He is holy.
  • His call to holiness is universal – open to everyone.
His call to holiness is personal – unique and individualized to each of us. So my prayer and your prayer will have similarities and connections to each other. BUT your prayer will be unique and individualized for you.The skills and procedures that lead us to holiness are, likewise universal and readily available to everyone:
  • They include mental prayer and contemplation;
  • These avenues to holiness include the Sacraments, especially Holy Communion and Penance;
  • And they include the frequent practice of Christian virtues that characterize your daily relationships: Virtues like truthfulness, patience, courtesy, generosity, piety and so on.
When Holy Mother Church speaks about “the spiritual life” and “spirituality,” she is speaking about our journey toward holiness, toward God. During that journey, the holier we become, the closer we will be to God.So, spirituality is a process of growing holier by deepening our relationship with God and with one another, as Our Lord Jesus taught us.We deepen our Spirituality -- our relationships with God and with one another --
  • Through firm adherence to daily personal prayer;
  • Through faithful participation at Sunday Mass (and daily Mass ,if possible);
  • Through frequent Confession and daily self-examination;
  • Through service to others, especially the sick and the most needy;
  • Through resolutely participating in the mission of the Church: "Walking the walk, not just talking the talk" -- being Catholic 24/7/365, in every situation and activity.
As your spiritual life deepens, you will come to recognize God in every facet of your life, and in every event in our world. And, recognizing God present with you, you can consistently respond with "yes" to Him and His Kingdom.This is how we become holy! This is how we become spiritual!

Spirituality is a process of growing holier by deepening our relationship with God and with one another, as Our Lord Jesus taught us. We deepen our Spirituality -- our relationships with God and with one another -- through daily personal prayer, faithful participation at Sunday Mass (and daily Mass ,if possible), frequent Confession and daily self-examination, and service to others, especially the sick and the most needy. In a nutshell, we deepen our spirituality through resolute participation in the mission of the Church: being Catholic 24/7/365, in every situation and activity. 
By fidelity to these, your deepening spiritual life allows you to recognize God in every facet of your life, and in every event in our world. By awareness of God present with you, you will consistently respond with "yes" to Him and His Kingdom. This is how we become holy! This is how we become spiritual!

THAT’S WHY we should be ready and willing -- at all times -- to recognize God's presence WITH us and God’s will FOR us. We should be living so that we are always ready and willing to respond to God as His Word comes to us in events, in people, in our prayer, and in our innermost feelings and thoughts. 


THE FIRST REQUIREMENT FOR BECOMING TRULY SPIRITUAL, IS TO create a certain mood of READINESS FOR GOD in our lives. We must maintain an intense desire to work with God, to bring His new life to ourselves and everyone. 


This is what Our Lord Jesus means when He advises us to be aware, stay awake, be prepared -- to seek Him out and respond to Him.
  • This state of readiness can only exist if we are habitually living the kind of life that is pleasing to God.
  • This state of readiness can only exist if we give up the habitually selfish things we do to hide from God, from other people, and from ourselves.
Want to be ready for God? Then:
  • Repent, amend, renew yourself;
  • Correct your sinfulness and selfishness;
  • Turn back to God by confessing your sins.


Some Catholics have said to me, that they don't need to go to Confession, because they don’t really commit any sins. 
My response: Grrrrr! 
For an honest and powerful spiritual life, we must motivate ourselves to dig deeply into our hearts, and search for any rubbish – that is, sins -- that we have buried deep inside our hearts. Our sins prevent God's word from implanting itself deep within us.

Therefore, we must not HIDE the sins we know are keeping us from living Christ-like lives. We must remove THE SINS, the rubbish we have buried within our hearts.

So, the first requirement for a healthy spiritual life is:
Create a mood of readiness for God in your life.

The second requirement for a healthy spiritual life is:

Become conscious of the unique ways the Lord uses to interact with you.
To grow in holiness, to grow in our spiritual life, we MUST understand that each one of us is a unique person with a unique history. Of all the trillions of people God could have created, He deliberately chose to create you and me.
  • We will never be duplicated.
  • Each one of us is absolutely unique and absolutely original for all eternity.
  • Each one of us is loved by the Lord in a unique way.

Because the Lord respects our individuality, He teaches each of us in our unique spiritual life according to the personality, gifts and character He has given us. To grow spiritually, we must become completely conscious of this! Conscious of the unique patterns in our lives:
  • Patterns, repetitions within your successes -- and your failures;
  • Patterns of your wanting to be alone -- and wanting to be with others;
  • Repetitions of murkiness in your thinking -- and your understanding clearly;
  • Patterns in your work -- and your leisure;
  • Patterns In your fatigue -- and your energy;
  • Pattern In your joy -- and your suffering;
  • Repetitions in your fear -- and your courage;
  • Repetitions In your selfish desires -- and your generosity.


To grow spiritually, you must become conscious of how the Lord deals with you.
  • Are you conscious of the fact that you have created a repeating pattern of sin in your life?
  • Are you conscious of a repeating pattern of holiness in your life?
  • Are you conscious of the recognizable calls from God in your life?
  • Are you conscious of the similarities about each of His calls to you?
  • Are you conscious of the pattern to how you deliberately ignore God’s calls?

To grow spiritually, we must know HOW and WHERE and WHEN we are being FULLY CONSCIOUS of the Lord and FULLY Attentive to the Lord.



What Is Prayer?
Few areas of theology are as crucial and indispensable as is prayer. Because,
PRAYER IS OUR CENTRAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.

What you think about prayer necessarily involves what you think about God. If you think that prayer to God is important -- that prayer really makes a difference -- then you have already said a lot about your concept of God.
You are saying that:
  • God hears us
  • God is personally concerned about us
  • God answers us, is at work in the world in response to us.
You are saying PRAYER IS LIFE WITH THE LIVING GOD.

Prayer is our central relationship with GOD. Prayer is our life with the LIVING GOD.
Prayer only happens in and through Our Lord Jesus Christ. He is our way to the Father. In Our Lord Jesus, God reaches out to us, inviting us to respond. There should only be one response from us: That we are IN OUR LORD JESUS, that we ABIDE in Our Lord Jesus.

In Saint John's Gospel, chapter 15, verses 1 through 11,
 Our Lord Jesus -- just before His death -- tells His disciples that He is the true vine and we are the branches.
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already made clean by the word I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
The vine and branches image describes the mutual presence in one another of the Lord Jesus and us. HE is in us and WE are in him. This passage contains TWO DIRECTIVES to us from Our Lord Jesus. 
  1. That we remain in Our Lord Jesus and abide in His Love.
  2. That we should ask, in His Name, for whatever we need.
  • The SUCCESS of our asking for what we need will depend on US.
  • The EFFECTIVENESS of our praying depends on our remaining in Our Lord Jesus.
  • The SUCCESSFULNESS of our praying depends on our bearing fruit, being pruned, and becoming His disciples.
Our Lord Jesus calls you to abide in Him. He calls you to an intimate personal relationship with Him. This relationship is a matter of experience. By experience I do not mean a passing emotional state, but experience as a personal involvement.
The Lord calls you to experience Him, to experience a PERSONAL relationship with Him.
The Lord calls you not only to know about Him, but to know Him as a person.

The ESSENTIAL EXPRESSION of our personal relationship with God is called PRAYER.
The ONE, ESSENTIAL ACTIVITY that allows us to experience our personal relationship with God, is called, PRAYER.


Our Lord Jesus calls you and me to abide in Him. He calls you and me to an intimate, personal relationship with Him. This relationship is a matter of experience. 


By experience I do not mean a passing emotional state, but experience as a personal involvement.

The Lord calls you to experience Him, to experience a PERSONAL relationship with Him.

The Lord calls you not only to know about Him, but to know Him as a person.
  • The essential expression of our personal relationship with God is called prayer.
  • The essential activity that allows us to experience our personal relationship with God, is called prayer.
AND prayer is quite simple: Essentially, prayer is remaining in the Lord "unprotected," with no defenses, no masks, no disguises, no camouflage.

The Gospel Of Saint John points out that we share in God's own divine nature when we remain in Our Lord Jesus and His love --- like branches on a vine [John 15: 1-11]. Because, in fact, the Holy Spirit of Christ unites us to him.

As we hear in the First Letter Of John [1 John 4:13-15]: “By this we know that we are abiding in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His own Spirit. . . . Whoever confesses that Our Lord Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”

The only begotten Son of God gives His Holy Spirit to human beings -- especially to those who are united with Him in faith. On THEM, He bestows all kinds of holiness:
  • He makes them relatives and sharers in His and the Father's nature;
  • He nourishes them with love;
  • He pours into them the knowledge of all virtue and goodness.
To enable us, to give us the ability to pray, Our Lord Jesus and the Father send us their Holy Spirit. And, through the Spirit, the Father and Son come to us and dwell in us -- as The Gospel According To John [John 14:23] says: “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

This divine indwelling changes us: We exist in a new way, in the Holy Spirit:
  • We are enabled by the Spirit in us to know and love God in a personal way.
  • We call this new way of existing, “grace.”
Prayer is, above all, God’s grace, His gift.

My prayer, even though it is my own activity, is a gift from God by which I enter into an interpersonal relationship with Him:
  • A truly personal relationship in which I know and love God;
  • And a truly personal relationship in which I accept God's knowledge and love of me.

Praying is about dropping all the defensive camouflage and shields, to stand naked before God and remain in Him.

Be very cautious with too much reading about prayer, too much talking about prayer, too much thinking about prayer: Reading, talking or thinking too much about our praying can be used by our sinful human nature to shield us from the Lord, hide us from Him, make us partially present to Him! Prayer calls for our TOTAL presence to the Lord, that He may take possession of us. And He will!

The purpose of prayer, the reason you and I even exist: is to stand exposed before God and remain standing before Him. But we have to WANT to stand before God -- we have to want it with an overpowering desire.

So . . . do YOU want to stand surrendered before God? When you sit yourself down to pray, ask yourself: WHAT DO YOU WANT? If you want God to take possession of you, then you are praying. That is fundamentally what prayer is!

Prayer is not always easy. But it is simple: If you desire to stand surrendered before God, then stand there; absolutely nothing else is needed.

Praying is simply abiding in the Lord -- being poor, with no defenses, and with a willingness to be trimmed clean to bear more fruit.



How Do We Pray, How Should We Pray?

We have explored WHAT prayer is.  But HOW do you do it?  How should we pray?

Fundamentally, there are two kinds of prayer: Vocal Prayer and Mental Prayer.

VOCAL PRAYER includes ASKING God, or PRAISING God, or THANKING God.
Vocal Prayer includes the “form prayers” we read from a book or learn in our religious education: the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be, the Act of Contrition, the Rosary, etc.

MENTAL PRAYER, like meditation and contemplation, involves directing our thoughts and emotions toward God, without speaking, as you devoutly reflect on a chosen theme, a passage from the Scriptures, with the intention of deepening your spiritual insights and your love for God.

The deepest forms of prayer are MEDITATING upon and CONTEMPLATING the Word of God from the Holy Scriptures.  Meditation and Contemplation:
  • Are more about feeling, rather than saying or doing anything.
  • Are more about being aware of God;
  • Are more about listening to the Father and Our Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
  • Are more about what God does for us, rather than anything we might do for Him.
To explain a little bit about Mental Prayer, about Meditation, I would ask you a question about house painting.
If you ask a really fine house painter what the most important part about painting is, what will he say? He will tell you, “It’s the preparation! Dusting down the walls, laying down tarps on the floor, covering the furniture, getting the correct brushes, etc.”
LIKEWISE, we must prepare for God’s coming to us in prayer: Prepare as eagerly as you would prepare for a visit with the dearest person in your life.

Four things are involved with preparing for praying: TIME , PLACE , POSTURE and SCRIPTURE.

First, prepare your TIME.
Within the profound experience of prayer, nothing can replace time.
I doubt that the Saints could ever have known what prayer is, if they had not decided at some point to pay the price for it, that is, to persevere in it, to give it time! After you do this, prayer will no longer be the same; it becomes part of your very body, your respiration, rhythms and cycles: IT WILL SET your biological clock.
Remember: It is the same with prayer as with learning any craft: Ease Is Proportionate To Regular Practice.   Everything else connected to praying – like PLACE , POSTURE and SCRIPTURE -- everything else is secondary to TIME!   You should NOT enter into prayer unless you have decided to spend time on it -- or to waste time on it, as certain people might think. The ideal is one full hour. But for our purposes, we’ll set the time to between 15 and 30 minutes.
In accepting -- submitting yourself to -- a certain length of time for prayer, you make a preliminary act of faith in the Holy Spirit's operation in your heart!
We believe that grace can transform poor creatures like ourselves – IF WE GIVE IT TIME!

Secondly, prepare your PLACE for praying:
Let me make a distinction between the PLACE that you pray in, and the LOCATION that you pray in.
The PLACE that prayer ALWAYS happens in, is your heart.
Prayer happens in the deepest part of your being -- not just in your head,
not just in your feelings -- but deep in your HEART!
Bring your PLACE of prayer --- YOUR HEART --- to a suitable LOCATION where you can be with God. Pick a quiet, private location where you can be alone and can openly speak and react to God's presence without drawing attention from others.

Thirdly, prepare your POSTURE for praying!
Your bodily posture is important in prayer. As you prepare to pray, choose a prayerful posture:
Relax yourself peacefully into a harmony of body WITH spirit.
Do you pray better kneeling? Then, kneel.
Do you feel more receptive and open to God's Word when sitting? Then, sit.
Experiment with various postures until you find one most conducive for peacefully listening to God and for responding to God's presence.
Take a few minutes to position yourself, to relax and quiet yourself down.
Relax your limbs and face muscles.
Hand over all your cares and concerns to your Guardian Angel (Yes, they do exist, and are real); let your Guardian Angel hold them for you, while you spend this time in prayer with the Lord.

Fourthly, prepare your SCRIPTURE for praying.
Reading prayers out of a prayer book, or praying a repetitive prayer, like the Rosary, help many people to be AWARE of God.
However, in order to fully open your heart to God, you need to use GOD’S WORDS in the Bible!
The best source of fuel for meditation and contemplative prayer is the New Testament: The Gospels in particular are the best.
Before your prayer time, prepare for your meditative praying by choosing one short Scripture passage -- 5 to 10 verses.
For example: Matthew 26:6-13, Our Lord Jesus with the woman who wept at His feet.

Or John 21:15-22, the Risen Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?”

Mark it in your Bible and have it ready. Read it once the night before, just as you turn out the light to go to sleep, or read it once the first thing as you wake in the morning.

After the preparation of your time, place, posture and Scriptures, you should awaken your praying and begin abiding in God’s love.
Here’s what I mean.  As you begin to contemplate God’s Word in Scripture, you should rest your mind and reflect on where you are and why.
  • Relax your body
  • Concentrate your mind
  • Open up your heart:
Do all three at the same time.

This is what Our Lord Jesus spoke of in His Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 6:6): "When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father Who is in secret."

Many people imagine that meditation consists in settling upon a topic and determining its main points, as though they were going to present some sort of theological lecture.

For prayer to awaken, it is important for the mind not to have its attention attracted by many objects.

Your mind should focus on just one thing: to be more open to the inspiration which the Holy Spirit will communicate to you.   Begin with this focus as the vehicle to carry you into prayer.   In focusing your mind, your whole person concentrates yourself and simplifies yourself.

How do you focus mind and soul on God?  By being there for God. Yes, be there.

Have you ever been with someone who was with you bodily, but not present to you with their attention and their heart? (Like Homer Simpson with Marge, his wife: “Yes, dear; Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh . . .”)

Start to focus your mind and heart by being there for God.  As you continue, remind yourself of the Presence of God:
  • Peacefully remind yourself how He is always present to you.
  • Be aware that God fills and soaks you with His presence;
  • Be aware that He unconditionally loves you, and is always with you, always conscious of you.
  • Then, ask the Lord to reveal Himself to you, to speak to you and teach you how to listen deeply to Him.
  • Acknowledge God's presence: “Lord, I know that You are here with me.”
  • Respond to God's presence: “Thank you, Lord, for being here with me.”
Be genuinely yourself and respond honestly, freely, spontaneously, reverently.
Speak what is in your heart; say what you feel, even when you feel like complaining.

Remember: If or when you don't know what to say, the Holy Spirit prays in you and for you.
Just speaking or whispering the name of Our Lord Jesus rhythmically with your breathing, or repeating words of praise and thanks, are profoundly prayerful responses to Him.

Next, turn to the Scripture passage you have picked out.
Slowly read the passage. Read it out loud. (This is why you choose a private place beforehand!)
  • Believe that the words are God's own words, and are meant for you – here and now;
  • Listen with faith, deeply and reverently;
  • Listen with trust;
  • Listen with hunger to be fed by His word;
  • Listen with gratitude and in peace;
  • DO NOT start searching for hidden meanings;
  • FORGET ABOUT implications and conclusions, applying it, etc.;
  • Be simple, like a child nestled in its parent's lap, peacefully listening to a story.
AS YOU CONTINUE, you will find that a certain word, or a certain statement, or a person involved -- will keep attracting your attention.   You will find that you keep returning to them.
These are your “resting places” within the Scripture passage you chose.   The Holy Spirit points out these “resting places” to you:
  • Linger in them.
  • Savor them.
  • Repeat them.
  • Reflect on them in silence.
  • Stay with them and the same Scripture passage during the whole prayer period
  • Read it and repeat it as often as you like.
Then, just LET Him.   Who? The Lord!  Just let the Lord do what?
  • Let Him be with you.
  • Let Him be for you what He wants to be. Let Him love you.
  • Let Him speak to you.
  • Let Him hold you and console you and forgive you and strengthen you.
  • Let Him take you – even if He prefers to take you into aridness or shadows – just LET Him! 
  • Trust yourself to Him.
  • And RESPOND to Him -– in any way you want to or feel moved to respond.  Let your words, or tears, or loving Him become your response to Him.
Meditation is more about feeling, rather than saying or doing anything.
Meditation is more about being aware of -- more about listening to -- the Father and Our Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Meditative prayer is something that GOD DOES for us, rather than anything we could do for Him.

And so, in Meditative and Contemplative Prayer:
  • You consciously BE with the Lord;
  • You let Him BE FOR YOU the loving God that He is;
  • You let Him FILL YOU with the Holy Spirit:
  • You let Our Lord Jesus become MORE AND MORE ALIVE AND REAL to you. 

Some comments on the Lord Jesus'
command to us to "Pray always."

In the Gospel Of Saint Luke, chapter 18, Our Lord Jesus taught us the The Parable of the Persistent Widow.  "Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary."


In his First Letter To The Thessalonians, chapter 5, verse 17, Saint Paul repeats the Lord Jesus' command: "Pray without ceasing."


Uh-oh... how do we do that?

Cardinal Bergoglio -- now Pope Francis -- once taught about prayer by explaining his Five Finger Prayer Guide:

1. The thumb is the closest finger to you. So start praying for those who are closest to you. They are the persons easiest to remember. To pray for our dear ones is a “sweet obligation.”

2. The next finger is the index. Pray for those who teach you, instruct you and heal you. They need the support and wisdom to show direction to others. Always keep them in your prayers.

3. The following finger is the tallest. It reminds us of our leaders, the governors and those who have authority. They need God’s guidance.

4. The fourth finger is the ring finger. Even that it may surprise you, it is our weakest finger. It should remind us to pray for the weakest, the sick or those plagued by problems. They need your prayers.

5. And finally we have our smallest finger, the smallest of all. Your pinkie should remind you to pray for yourself. When you are done praying for the other four groups, you will be able to see your own needs but in the proper perspective, and also you will be able to pray for your own needs in a better way.


Pope Francis, during his homily for Morning Mass on June 20, 2013, commented on Our Lord's teaching in the Gospel Of Saint Matthew, where Our Lord said:
“In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
Pope Francis said, "Prayer is not a magical thing, there is no magic with prayer."
“Someone once told me that when he went to a 'witch doctor' they said a lot of words to heal him. But that is pagan ... Jesus teaches us that we should not turn to Him with so many words because He knows everything. The first word is ‘Father’, this is the key of prayer. Without saying that word, without feeling that word, you cannot pray".
"'Father' is a strong word but it opens the door  ...  The key of every prayer is to feel loved by a father...  Not my Father, but Our Father."

Pope Francis also taught that true prayer requires courage and tenacity.  
In his July 1, 2013 Mass Homily, Pope Francis said, "We must pray with courage to the Lord, and with tenacity just as Abraham did."   Pope Francis referred to Abraham’s courage and tenacity in appealing to the Lord to spare the city of Sodom from destruction: “Abraham is a courageous man and prays with courage.” Abraham “finds the strength to speak face to face with the Lord and attempts to defend that city. And he does it with tenacity. In the Bible therefore, we can see that prayer must be courageous.”
“When we speak of courage we always think of apostolic courage – going out to preach the Gospel, these sort of things…But there’s also the kind of courage demonstrated before the Lord. That sense of paralysis before the Lord: going courageous before the Lord to request things. It makes you laugh a bit; this is funny because Abraham speaks with the Lord in a special way, with this courage, and one doesn't know: is this a man who prays or is this a‘phoenician deal’ because he’s bartering the price, down, down…And he’s tenacious: from fifty (people) he’s succeeded in lowering the price down to ten. He knew that it wasn't possible. Only that it was right…. But with that courage, with that tenacity, he went ahead.”

On July 4, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI said the following at a Youth Rally in Sulmona, Italy:


"Authentic prayer is not detached from reality. If prayer alienates you, removes you from real life, be aware that it is not authentic prayer. 

"It is not a question of simply multiplying the number of words,  but of being in God's presence, making the expressions of the 'Our Father' present in our minds and our hearts, or adoring the Eucharist, ... or meditating on the Gospel, ... or participating in the liturgy. All this does not detach us from life; rather, it helps us truly to be ourselves in all environments, faithful to the voice of God which speaks to our conscience, free from the conditioning of the present moment."
"Faith and prayer do not resolve problems, but enable them to be faced with a new light and a new strength, in a manner worthy of man, more serenely and more effectively."

Our Lord Jesus: "Pray always without becoming weary." 
Pope Benedict: "Authentic prayer is not detached from reality. 
                        If prayer alienates you, removes you from real life, 
                        be aware that it is not authentic prayer."  
Pope Francis:    "Prayer requires courage and tenacity." 
                       "Prayer is not a magical thing,there is no magic with prayer."
                        "The key of every prayer is to feel loved by a father...  
                        Not my Father, but Our Father."



Whew! How are we to do all this? 

We can pray always when we discipline our consciousness to think about God and to always keep God in our minds. 

It seems to be part of our nature as human beings, that our minds, our thought processes, are constantly working -- we are constantly thinking.   Something always seems to have our attention, to one degree or another.  We simply cannot help ourselves; we are always thinking.

Yet, while we may not be able to turn off our thinking processes, we can choose what we think about.  

When we choose to constantly think of God and to constantly think about God, we begin to pray unceasingly!

The late Father Henri Nouwen expressed it beautifully in his book, With Open Hands: 
“To pray does not mean to think about God in contrast to thinking about other things, or to spend time with God instead of spending time with other people.  Rather it means to think and live in the presence of God.”
    Now, Academicians:
    There you have it!
    So... Get busy!
    Pray Always!



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