By Joanna Collins
Author of Lyrics of Parish Song for Year of Prayer, “We Gather in Your Presence”
On the journey of faith, prayer might well be considered our GPS. It reminds us of our origin, outlines our route, and highlights our destination. In truth, however, prayer is also the vehicle that carries us and propels us forward. Without it, our destination is simply unreachable. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, prayer is “a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God” (CCC 2558). It’s not just important. It’s vital.
Like most raised in the faith, prayer for me began with, well, prayers: dinnertime grace, an Angel of God and “God Bless” before bed, and all the standard “Church prayers.” I knew people who were great pray-ers. My great-grandma, Rose, comes to mind, whose name, I was convinced, was short for “Rosary.” At some point, prayer also became internal: little conversations with God when I wanted to thank Him for something good or, more often, ask Him for something I really wanted. Simple.
Over time, life grew increasingly complex, and prayer shifted, mainly to the back burner. Prayer time was Sunday Mass. Sure, I made my requisite visits to the Grotto before exams during college days at Notre Dame, but what usually occupied my mind in those minutes were the math formulas I needed to know the next morning. And the distractions and diversions just kept on coming.
But God keeps knocking. I recognize now that prayer begins with God’s movement toward me, not vice-versa. And He never gives up. When I’ve struggled most, He’s been there, waiting for me to turn to Him in a quiet moment, admit my failings, and listen. And as I come to know the loving relationship He desires to pour into me, prayer time takes on a whole new urgency.
God is beyond us, God surrounds us, and God is within us. Prayer reflects that reality. We encounter God externally in the wonder of creation and in the songs and prayers of our community of believers. We come to know Him more deeply as we ponder His Word, and seek His grace and mercy in our hearts. Ultimately, we find God in our innermost being, in the quiet contemplation of our soul. God speaks to us in those moments of silence. And in the silence, we can listen.
Paul exhorted his disciples to “pray always,” to pray as we live. But, borrowing a paraphrase of the Catechism, we can’t pray always if we don’t pray sometimes. Personal prayer needs to be built into our day. For me, prayer happens in the stillness of the morning, beginning with a humble offering of praise and gratitude, reflection on the deep desires of my heart, and a renewed commitment to allow God to shepherd me. I offer intentions for each of my daughters, seeking guidance for them where they are most in need of His Wisdom. Then, with a short ‘examen’ at the end of the day, I give thanks for the times I responded to God’s call, and ask forgiveness for the times I didn’t.
God invites us into relationship with him. May prayer be our heartfelt response.
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