Right now, amidst the crisis in our Church, we are in desperate need of prayer.
But what if we don’t really know how to pray? What if now that we recognize the utter need for it, we are at a loss for words?
Did you know that there isn’t just one way to pray? Sometimes I think we get trapped into believing that there is only one way, and we get discouraged into thinking that we are missing the key it takes to truly and authentically communicate with God.
We can’t all pray like St. Theresa of Avila in her ecstasies, St. John Paul II in his hours upon hours in adoration, or like St. Faustina who had intimate conversations with God face-to-face. More often than not, God speaks to us in an entirely simple way, in the silence of our hearts. No matter what that looks like for each one of us, it’s so important for us all to be seeking God in prayer.
The means by which we pray–be it by reading something, gathering with others in prayer, speaking to Him quietly in our hearts, or through vocal prayer–doesn’t matter as much as our willingness to sit down and converse with God. It’s important to remember that there are many different ways that we are able to encounter Him in prayer, but essentially, there are only five forms of prayer.
-1-Blessing and Adoration
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) says that blessing “expresses the basic movement of Christian prayer.” It is ultimately an encounter between God and man. A blessing is the means by which God gives the free gift of Himself to man, and man’s acceptance of it is an effective means of dialoging with Him.
There are two basic forms that express blessing and adoration: the rising of our prayers in the Holy Spirit through Christ to the Father, and through acknowledgement of the greatness of the Lord who made us, and the almighty power of the Savior who sets us free from evil.
Blessing and adoration are extremely effective forms of prayer, because through them, man accepts the gifts that God has to give him, and then in turn, man’s human heart blesses the One who is the source of every blessing.
-A simple way to bless God each day is to make a morning offering. When you wake up in the morning, offer your life to God with this prayer:
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all our associates, and in particular for the intentions of our Holy Father for this month.
-By frequenting the Sacraments, you will be blessed by God, and in return you will bless Him with your life. Go to Mass every Sunday–more than that if you can–and receive Him in the Eucharist. Go to Confession often and receive forgiveness for your sins. If you are married, strive to bless your spouse with your life and love for him/her. The Sacraments were given to us by God as visible signs of His love and blessing upon us. Participation in and celebration of these Sacraments is an effective way to receive God’s blessings, and in return to bless Him with your life.
-One of the best ways to adore God is to rest in His Eucharistic presence in Adoration. Find a local Adoration chapel near you (most parishes have one), and devote an hour a week to adoring Christ in His presence.
-2- Prayers of Petition:
These are the prayers by which we plead for God’s help, be it in small or large ways.
In our petitions we cry out to God—sometimes even struggling with Him—as an expression of our dependence and reliance on His help and mercy.
Really, all of our needs are objects for petition, since we are dependent completely on God for all things.
It’s important when we come to God with our petitions, that we acknowledge our unworthiness and dependence on Him, offering a humble disposition that is reliant on His loving mercy.
-In your daily time of prayer, bring God your needs. What is it that is burning in your heart? Do you have worries for your family? For the Church? For loved ones that haven’t accepted Christ? Offer these needs and people to Christ in prayer. Verbally (either vocally or in your heart) ask God to hear your prayers and to answer them according to His will.
-3-Prayer of Intercession:
Intercession is a means of praying as Jesus prayed. Jesus is the true mediator, who intercedes on behalf of all men—especially those in great need of His mercy. Intercessory prayer also has deep roots in Old Testament history, as it has been used all the way back to Abraham, as a characteristic of trust in God’s mercy. By interceding on behalf of others, a Christian looks not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others–even to the point of praying for those who do him harm.
One of the great gifts that Christ gives to us is the ability to intercede on behalf of others through Him, so don’t hesitate to cry out on behalf of the needs of your loved ones, and for the Church.
-Right now, our Church is especially in need of intercessory prayers. Pray daily that God may have mercy on us and that he will rid our Church of any darkness within it.
-A great intercessory prayer is the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Pray it weekly–or even daily–on behalf of your personal needs, the needs of your family, and the needs of the Church.
-4- Prayer of Thanksgiving:
Christ our Savior came and died for us so as to rise again, and by doing so, set creation free to live–free from sin and death–in close communion with the Father.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that,
“Thanksgiving characterizes the prayer of the Church which, in celebrating the Eucharist, reveals and becomes more fully what she is…The thanksgiving of the members of the Body participates in that of their Head.” (2637)
Every event in the life of a Christian can become an offering of thanksgiving. Gratitude is one of the most effective ways to find joy, because it is in our thankfulness that we recognize the blessings and gifts that God has freely bestowed upon us.
-In your daily prayer, call to mind all of the blessings you have in your life. From the very breath you breathe, to the shoes on your feet–everything is a gift from God. Recall those gifts in your time of prayer with Him.
-5- Prayer of Praise:
Praise is the form of prayer which recognizes most immediately that God is God. It’s a recognition of who He is, and an acknowledgment of His glory for His own sake.
Praise is a way of developing a pure heart, because it is through praise that one comes to love God in faith before seeing Him in glory. It is a testament that we are His children, and that His son is the one who adopted us to be children of God.
-In your daily prayer, freely praise God. Read the Gospel writings and spend time meditating on Christ’s life so that you may more easily offer Him prayers of praise. As you get to know His works, words, miracles and life better, it will become easier for you to offer Him words of praise.
These various forms of prayer can be prayed in many different ways! You can offer prayer of praise silently, or publicly. You can thank God in the quiet recesses of your heart, or you can shout with joy for all He has done for you. You can pray with others, pray in church, pray in community, even pray together on a global scale! You can sing, journal, fall on your knees, or head to Mass or adoration.
What matters is that you do it.
If you are a beginner in prayer, start with one of these forms a day. As you develop a life of prayer and it becomes a habit, add the other forms into your time with God.
Don’t wait! Begin adoring God, praying for others, offering atonement for your sins and the sins of others, interceding on behalf of the weak and suffering, thanking God for his love, and praising him for who He is…today.
Prayer is the means of igniting your soul, and when you make time for it, I promise you, overtime your soul will come alive with the fire of his love!
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