The Pillar of Prayer
March 10, 2023
Author: Hannah DeVivo
Peace be with you!
On this third Friday in Lent, I would like to focus on the pillar of prayer. We will look to Jesus as our example and seek to learn what He wants us to know about this aspect of our spiritual lives.
What is Prayer?
I have talked about this before, but for a brief review, prayer is a conversation with God. Saint Thérèse of Lisieux expressed it beautifully: “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” Prayer is the way we communicate with God and invite Him into our lives. I once asked my father why we had to talk to God if He already knew what was going on in our lives. He conveyed to me the image of someone reading my journal and learning about my life that way. He then gave an alternate image of me going to that person and telling them all the things that had happened. He asked me in which example would I feel more connected to the person. The answer was obvious; in telling someone about my experiences, I was building a relationship with them.
Why Do We Pray?
God is omniscient—He knows everything. We do not pray to inform or apprise Him of something of which He is unaware. We pray to invite Him into our lives. Praying is an exercise of the free will that God gave us. It is a conscious reaching out to the Lord, showing that we desire to know Him. I used to think that the reason I prayed to God was to please Him, and those prayers were often said begrudgingly. I will never forget when I realized that prayer was more for me than for God. Praying to Him helped me to feel seen, heard, and valued. I handed over my feebleness and He met it with His Awesomeness. Even on the occasions that I didn’t feel something magnificent, I knew He was there. He hears and sees us when we pray; He holds our words in His tender heart and loves us as we are. We may not always feel that our prayers are being heard if the circumstances in our lives aren’t shaping up the way we expect them to, but God’s way is always perfect. His wisdom far surpasses our own, and He holds us close to His heart in the sometimes-uncomfortable waiting period.
When Should We Pray?
The Bible mentions Jesus praying many times. Scripture reveals some examples of when we should seek the Lord in prayer:
- When we are joyful-“At that very moment he rejoiced [in] the holy Spirit and said, ‘I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike! Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.’”-Luke 10:21
- When we are scared- “After withdrawing about a stone’s throw from them and kneeling, he prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.’”-Luke 22:41-42
- When we need rest- “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.”-Mark 1:35
- When we are sad- “His disciples came and took away the corpse and buried him [John the Baptist]; and they went and told Jesus. When Jesus heard of it, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.”-Matthew 14:12-13
- When we need wisdom- “In those days he departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve.” -Luke 6:12-13
The Our Father
During Mass, before praying the Our Father, we hear: “By the Savior’s command and formed by divine teaching, we dare to say,”
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. Amen.
We acknowledge that Jesus indeed commanded us to pray in this way. By observing the text, we learn what some important elements of prayer are.
- We start by giving God the glory that is His. We acknowledge and praise Him.
- We ask for what we need, in faith and trust that God will provide.
- We ask forgiveness for the ways in which we have failed or offended the Lord and we forgive those who have wronged us as well.
- We ask that God lead us to what is good and help us to avoid what would lead us into sin.
- We ask that God in His almighty power deliver us from evil, acknowledging that it is through Him alone that we find our salvation.
How Should We Pray?
In Jesus’ time, if a man was prolific in his schooling he would continue to Beth Midrash (the House of Learning) where he would learn how to pray from a rabbi. Jesus is our Rabbi, and by observing Him, we learn the best way to pray.
Many aspects of Jesus’ prayer were like those of other rabbis. He was consistent in His prayer. Scripture speaks of Jesus going to pray often. He was persistent in prayer. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus came back to pray again and again. But there was something about the way Jesus prayed that was not like anyone else: He prayed as one who belongs to the Father. The voice of God was heard at the baptism of Jesus and the Transfiguration: “This is my beloved Son.”
God the Father claimed Jesus as His Son. In doing so, the prayer between Jesus and God was personal. Jesus prayed to His Father with a new level of trust and love. Through baptism, we too have been claimed by the Father. In the Rite of Baptism, after our parents give the priest our name and ask for the gift of baptism, the priest says, “In the name of the Christian Community, I claim you.” He then traces the Sign of the Cross on our forehead. Through this acceptance into the Body of Christ, we can now pray as those who are claimed by God.
The evil one wants to sow doubt into our hearts. He whispers things like “If God cared for you, then why would He allow you to experience such anguish?” If this happens to you, be not afraid! Our Lord was also tempted and put through suffering. He turned to the Father in trust that God’s Will would be best, and we can do the same. Even though we may not know all things, we can cling to our identities as beloved children who are claimed by God. Once we realize and accept that, we can pray in the same powerful way that Jesus did. I invite you to accept this truth into your heart and reap the benefits of a truly transformed prayer life.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Before You Go
How is your relationship with God?
What is your prayer life like?
Did you learn anything new in this article?
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