Today marks the beginning of a series of bulletin articles over the next nine months that will examine the concept, meaning, and fruit of prayer in the rich history of our Church. Each week’s article will summarize a specific style, form, or approach to prayer, using the highly-acclaimed book by Robert J. Wicks entitled, Prayer in the Catholic Tradition: A Handbook of Practical Approaches (Franciscan Media 2006).
In this article, you will learn the fruits of deepening your prayer life. The concept of “prayerfulness,” Wicks says, first is defined as the state of “being in the present with our eyes wide open to the presence and reflection of God in all things” (6). More than just reciting words, prayerfulness is a way of being. When we are truly prayerful, we form a direct connection to the divine. However, although prayerfulness is a pathway to God that is always open to us, we do not always avail ourselves of it. Because “it is easy to miss what God is calling us to be and do amid the fog of our own intentions and desires,” prayerfulness requires that we “be ‘awake’ to experiencing God” (7).
Nevertheless, once we develop an inclination towards prayer, it is “the portal to a full, rewarding life” (6). Like a tether to God, it grounds us, giving us both an inner peace and a different perspective on our lives. A prayerful attitude balances our sense of God, self, and others. From this vantage point, we can “see as clearly as possible what God is gifting us with each day” (8). Also, when we stay connected to God, our eyes open to his presence and our ears become attuned to what he is teaching us, and we do not allow his voice to become drowned out by society or our own habitual voices.
Indeed, prayer offers many benefits. For one thing, our experience of life is enhanced. We no longer wander around in a haze of stagnant, obsessive patterns of thinking, believing and behaving, but instead are able to more easily detach from our desires, demands, and perceived needs. Prayerfulness also encourages humility and helps us to see our foibles. As Wicks puts it, “when you take knowledge and add humility you get wisdom, and when you take that wisdom and add it to compassion you get love. And God is love” (11).
The first step in strengthening prayerfulness is to establish a friendship with the Lord. After that, you must begin to act on a “desire to be intentionally prayerful.” (17) To do that, it is helpful to pick some aspect of prayer you are already doing, like attending Mass, taking brief moments during the day to reflect on life and its meaning, welcoming people with hospitality, reading the bible or another spiritual source, or spending time in solitude, and then asking what you could do to deepen that particular aspect of prayer in your life (12-13, 18).
Once we have deepened our own sense of prayerfulness, Wicks says, we also are expected to use this new gift by sharing it freely with others. Indeed, expressing our gratitude for our sense of God’s more immediate presence in our lives by generously sharing our faith and life of prayer with others is itself a beautiful prayer.
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