Last week’s article introduced the topic of advancing in prayer, holiness, intellect and good deeds and emphasized the importance of prayer. This article will summarize some advice from the Catechism and spiritual masters on developing a steady, joyful and courageous life of prayer.
To begin with, we should recognize the many different types of prayer and ask how best to build upon Sunday Mass and regular Confession. To begin with, the Church has a rich liturgical tradition, including Mass (offered here daily) and the Divine Office, a series of prayers that priests and religious brothers and sisters offer daily; the Book of Christian Prayer has a simpler version of The Divine Office.
Another source of prayer is with the Scriptures, which one can read each day. One can either read a large portion of Scripture at once or engage in what is often called lectio divina, a prayerful reading of a small portion of the Bible at a time, such as one Psalm or event in the Gospels. The insights of great spiritual masters, such as St. Augustine, St. Francis de Sales, St. Theresa of Avila, or St. Therese of Lisieux can be a springboard to prayer as well, as can other books and periodicals, including Magnificat, which provides the Mass readings and other prayers for each day.
In another direction, devotions, such as the rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, Stations of the Cross, or prayers associated with saints unite our efforts together. Such devotions employ the same prayers numerous times, not merely for repetition, but rather as bridges that enable the mind to enter deeply into contemplation of a subject, such as the mysteries of the Rosary, the image of Divine Mercy, or the presence of the saints. Also helpful is informal prayer, in which we simply describe to God our hopes, fears, requests, thanksgiving, repentance, and good intentions. And we listen to Him speaking to us in the depth of our hearts with inspirations, ideas, encouragement, and resolution that can be expressed in words, but are often beyond them. As the Catechism points out, prayer is sometimes delightful and easy, and sometimes a battle. See Catechism 2728 – 2733.
When we receive clear joy and inspiration from God, we should thank Him for it and seek to share this joy with others. When prayer in more difficult, we should recognize that God is calling us away from what is easy to a humble, courageous path that involves trust that He will ever guide us, as He guided the Apostles in the boat in Galilee, through wind and storms to the shores of truth, grace and divine light. See Matthew 14:22-27; Mark 6:45-52; John 6:16-21.