By Mary Ellen Dunford, affiliate
For every individual there are many different approaches to prayer. It is a personal preference with one way not better or worse than another. Yet we would all agree that the purpose of prayer is to bring us closer to God. Prayer nurtures our relationship with God and deepens our spirituality. During this past Lent a local church held a Prayer-A-Thon. For 40 hours they offered 40 different types of prayer. Each prayer session was one hour. Some of the prayer types included the rosary, Stations of the Cross, Litany of Saints, Lectio Divina, praying the 10 commandments, dance, singing, Taize, journal writing, prayer with nature, drumming, couples prayer, healing touch and walking the labyrinth. It was a wonderful opportunity for people to experience different ways to connect with God and share their experience with others.
To St. Francis and St. Clare prayer was an important part of their tradition. They set aside time for daily liturgical prayer, community prayer and praying alone. Francis felt prayer was a necessary condition for following in the footsteps of Jesus who encouraged his followers to “pray always.” Like Francis and Clare, Jesus calls us to live a life of prayer and to live in communion. To pray always is to find oneself in prayerful communion with God and others while working, playing and experiencing all of the extraordinary and ordinary activities of daily life. Our daily living activities are not distractions from prayer but the source of meaningful prayer. Quoting Richard Rohr, “Prayer is the life of the one who prays.” Prayer is a relationship with God and the universe. Like all meaningful relationships, it takes intentional time and energy. If we are awake and present to the moment, we will grow in our relationship with God through every life experience.
St. Therese of Lisieux states, “For me prayer means launching out of the heart towards God; it means lifting up one’s eyes, quite simply, to heaven, a cry of grateful love, from the crest of joy or through despair.” Her emphasis is on the simplicity of prayer and that we turn to God in times of our joys and in times of challenges and discouragements.
Prayer is the path to following in the footsteps of Jesus. The Christian life calls us not only to take time out to pray but to live a life of service and to pursue peace and justice. Those that pray always are empowered and risk boldly the future.