Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Prayer: "putting on the mind of Christ"

1) Thanks to Eileen Mooney and all who helped plan Friday night’s concert. One blogger said, “What a wonderful evening Friday's adoration was. Thanks to whoever booked the Cowan's celebration. What a gifted family, not to mention the turnout of observers. Keep coming back, our Lord is awesome and healing!”

2) Thanks to all who prayed for last weekend’s youth group retreat. Thanks be to God and your prayers, it was a fruitful weekend!
Speaking of prayer, an anonymous blogger wrote the following:

“I have a hard time believing in intercessory prayer. It's obvious that God does not grant all prayers; He does for us what we need and not necessarily on a time line that we like. Like the parent who refuses to give the kid a candy bar but gives a carrot instead. The child's prayer was not granted, but something was done for the child that was good for him. So what role does praying for a certain thing play in all this? It seems like the role of prayer is to discern how God is acting in our lives, not to get God to act in a certain way.”

I think it’s important that when we discuss the things of prayer it is with the understanding that prayer is a habit that one develops, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Christian prayer is a way of life and not just isolated moments when we ask God things. As I told the teens this past weekend, I used to only “pray” when I needed something - a passing grade on a test that I didn’t study for, for example. I also explained that there was no real relationship there between me and Christ at that time. There was no real prayer going on.

If prayer becomes a way of life and a habit in our lives, then we begin to see things differently. The Holy Spirit helps us to see things as God sees them. So, then, when specific things arise for which we would like to pray, we begin to see them as God sees them. Since God is love, we can say that we begin to see these things through the lens of love. One definition of love is to want what’s best for the other. So, when we begin to take certain things to prayer and consider what we should ask for specifically, we are trying to see what’s best for whoever is involved.

Here’s an example: some of our seniors have asked me to pray that they get into specific colleges to which they are applying. The temptation is to pray that they get into the most prestigious and successful schools out there. But, if I really want what’s best for them, I will pray that they get into the schools that God wills them to get into. That will be best for them. One teen did ask me to “pray that I get into the school I’m supposed to go to”.

So, yes, prayer in general means to discern how God is acting in our lives and what His Will is. Praying for specific things is asking that God’s Will be done (we say “thy will be done” in the Lord’s prayer) in our lives and in the lives of those for whom we pray. Prayer, then, unites us with the mind and heart of God.

Finally, Fr. Wells (who experienced much dryness in prayer, but prayed faithfully every day) once wrote: “There are many reasons why people do not pray. One of them of course, is what has been called “practical atheism”, acting as if God does not exist, no matter what a person might say he believes. But, believers, too, often give up on prayer. Their problem, though, concerns what they expect to get out of prayer. In a society that is so preoccupied with feelings, many expect that prayer will result in feeling close to God. In fact, though, the great fruit of prayer is virtue. Putting ourselves into the presence of God opens us to the power of the Spirit that orders our priorities to see as Jesus sees and to desire what He desires…Prayer gives us the grace to move beyond preoccupation with self and, little by little, to put on the mind of Christ.”


At 8:48 PM, Blogger Daisy said...

I know that I prayed and asked other people to pray (especially Fr. Greg) that I would get into a medical school close to home. But God's Will was different, and I'm attending a medical school far from home. It's definitely not what I wanted, but I pray and trust that there is a reason God sent me here. I think it is very important for us to trust God all the time and trust Him even more if our prayers aren't answered the way we wanted.

At 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How did you make the transition from praying only occasionally when you needed something to what you call real prayer that involves a relationship with God? I think the former type of prayer is typical of many many people -- people who believe, go to Mass, etc. How does one move beyond it?

At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the things I've discovered is that I struggle with two things- commitment and discipline. In certain areas of my life, I've no problem with those things- but in the areas of my life that challenge me most- relationships and faith- I struggle with the depth of my commitment and discipline in action. I hadn't thought too much about prayer as a discipline leading to virtue. I realize that I let my feelings matter a lot, and I don't know that I know how to stop letting them affect.

If I understand Msgr. Wells correctly- it doesn't matter if I "want" to pray or not. My "not so good" feelings about it don't really matter. So I should sit in prayer even if I'm angry, hurt, resentful or confused and ignore the fact that it seems disingenuous.

At 6:00 PM, Blogger fran said...

A previous pastor at St. A's gave a homily once on making positive changes in one's life. Regarding prayer, he said simply this: "If you want to have a more prayerful life, start praying more."

In my own life, I pray for patience. Over the years, while I still pray for patience, I have made more of an effort to actually practice patience. It is this combination of praying AND doing, that has resulted in my becoming a more patient person.

Prayer is essential, but it must be united with actively making necessary changes, in order for the transition from one type or person to another to take place.

Anon, I would also suggest reading from the Bible, daily, or purchasing a prayer book or two. One of my favorites is a book entitled "Every Day is a Gift." These are two small ways, which I think will help you enter into a deeper relationship with God.

For Daisy -
I agree with what you say. God always has a reason for answering our prayers, even if it is not as we wished it to be.
I think that if we can begin to conform our will to His, then it becomes very easy to see that His way is always the best and it is always the right answer.

At 1:24 AM, Anonymous Ashley said...

Think of Jesus as a family member who lives in your home. We can't hide our feelings from someone whom we love and live with. If we are sad or angry our family sees that. So too God. Let him into it. He may have a solution you never thought of!

Another thing is that like family, we can't just be with him only when we want something. And if we really need something we can be sure he will give it to us but like a good mother or father there are times that he will just let us tough it out. But if we need someone to talk to, he will always be there.

Our best friends we are comfortable just hanging out with them. Why not God? Why not be comfortable with just sitting with him with not a lot of talking sometimes? Sometimes that says more about how close you are to someone than a lot of chatting.

At 3:58 PM, Blogger bethany said...

Some families are much better at hiding their true feelings from each other than they are at hiding them from strangers. I think some of the discomfort from prayer can be the lack of understandable response. Even when my friends and I are just sitting together without talking, we're still made aware of each other through our senses. It's easy to feel, when one is in prayer, that it's just floating out into the universe and that maybe God is busy. I'm not saying that's correct, just that it's easy and understandable.
Plus, when there isn't an external response, we're left alone with our thoughts and can be forced to look into ourselves more than we want. It's why people who are mourning often find themselves crying in mass long after they're stopped crying elsewhere. We live in a busy world with near constant stimulation. Being quiet and still is difficult. I have an easy time with light prayer, "thanks for giving me this opportunity, oh, I'm nervous, stay with me," in the middle of my activities, but sitting down to prolonged prayer has been a real struggle for me. I think God knows that I'm trying with my prayer and as the old monk said, I have to believe that my wanting to please God, does please Him.

At 8:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bethany, I don’t know who you are, but you spoke “my” words...

“we're left alone with our thoughts and can be forced to look into ourselves more than we want. It's why people who are mourning often find themselves crying in mass long after they're stopped crying elsewhere.”
I often well up in church without any terrific understanding of exactly why. I think it’s probably the place I’m most honest with myself, and one of the only places I let down my guard.

“Being quiet and still is difficult. I have an easy time with light prayer, but sitting down to prolonged prayer has been a real struggle for me.”
BINGO! Most of my time in prayer is to give thanks and ask for understanding in specific things, but beyond that, it’s like I loose focus and prayer becomes- I don’t know- forced, and then seems disingenuous. Maybe it matters less about what I am saying and is more important that I am just saying something- ??? Sometimes I just sit there and try to think about nothing at all, and that can be some exercise!

“I have to believe that my wanting to please God, does please Him.”
I really hope that’s true, for often I don’t think the ways I try to are enough. If just trying counts for something, maybe I’m not in such bad shape!

At 1:39 AM, Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

Thanks for this post. I found it a very helpful way to look at things.

At 4:00 PM, Blogger bethany said...

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one. I'll try to look up the name of the monk who said the trying quote. One of the priests at Xavier mentioned it during a course titled "The Problem of Evil" when talking about how obsessed some people can get with guilt and sin. I liked it because it seemed to give a glory to the trying and to relieve some of the burden of missing the mark. Oddly enough, the quote was also used quite well in Sports Night.


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