A Catholic Monthly Magazine

PRAYER – Who? Me!!

By Fr David Mullins sm

By Fr David Mullins sm

When Jesus spoke of prayer he addressed all of his disciples. It was not merely to the apostles or to the holy women who followed him. And his insistence on prayer in the lives of his followers was so often repeated we would be wise to give it some thought. And, having considered prayer in your life, then make time available for it.

When I was a newly-ordained priest, and I thought I was going to convert the world, I relished the opportunity to give ‘spiritual direction’ – what a misguided term!

If I heard it once I heard it numerous times, “Father, I can’t pray.” So, we sat down with the good soul and I described the process – choose a quiet place, get a holy book, preferably the gospels, read a short passage, and then in the presence of God, put worldly things out of your mind, turn your thoughts over in your mind for a while and before finishing make some spiritual commitment for your daily life. And so I had led another person into prayer. How vain I was!

After sixty years of priestly life, I feel a lot older and I hope a bit wiser. Now when one of the faithful says to me, “Father, I can’t pray.” I just reply, “Join the club! I can’t pray either, but I give it a go.” Why? Because that is what Jesus wants of me, wants of you.

We live in an era where success is seen as paramount. And when things don’t measure up to our expectations, we get despondent and look for something else to do.

There’s no bad prayer – if you give the time and your little effort, God will give the increase and reward you in his own good time.

So, here are some healthy reminders in regard to prayer.

1.     Our Lord said, “Pray, pray always.” “When you pray, pray like this, Our Father who art in heaven.” “You should be awake, and praying not to be put to the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” “When you pray, go to your private room, shut the door and pray to the Father who is in that secret place, and the Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.” Note well – “He will reward you.”

2.     We note that never once did Jesus say, “Pray perfectly, pray without distractions.” He didn’t say, “You will be rewarded for good perfect prayer.” So the message is – it is not perfection that the Lord wants in prayer but the good will and making oneself available and making an effort.

John Baptist - Mullins article3.     We note the plea of desperation of people who say, “I can’t pray.” And the emphasis on the “I.” Whereas in our prayer we have to make ourselves available and then get out of the way and let the Lord do the work. A priest who worked with us for many years in Tonga, Brian Culling sm, told us his best times of prayer were when he started this way, “Lord, I’m here. Now it’s over to you.”

4.     A motto for your prayer could well be the words of John the Baptist, “He must increase, I must decrease.” The more we realise that prayer is God’s work the better we will be.

5.     Methods of prayer. There are many. But I now regard Ignation, Benedictine, Theresa of Avila ways of prayer as skeletons on which we are to hang our own flesh and blood and our individual nature and culture. There are as many forms of prayer as there are people praying. Each has his own personality, his own method of allowing the Lord to do the work.

6.     Distractions in prayer. St. Therese of the Child Jesus spoke of dozing off after Communion. Her explanation was a mother loves her baby whether it is crying, feeding or sleeping. Well then, God still loves us when we are sometimes sleeping or distracted during prayer.

So, give it a go! Consolation and peace, or failure and despondency. There’s no bad prayer – if you give the time and your little effort, God will give the increase and reward you in his own good time.

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