Monday, March 9, 2015

Pathways to Prayer

During the Lenten season we are invited to practice the three age-old disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.   Let me highlight prayer.

Millet's Farmer Couple Praying
There are many pathways or approaches or guides to prayer.  We simply have to find our own style.

There are many familiar prayers:  The Our Father, the Stations of the Cross, the Mysteries of the Rosary, the Peace Prayer of St. Francis – all of these, when pondered slowly, can be pathways or passages into the presence of God, can enrich our friendship with God.  Above all, the Liturgy, the most perfect prayer of the Christian community.

Praise is another approach.  Praise is the bubbling over of the spirit of God within us.  Francis of Assisi was forever singing praises.  He saw the face of God in the sun and moon, wind and water, earth and flowers and trees and people.  Francis captured the praise of God in his magnificent Canticle of the Sun, also known as the Canticle of the Creatures.  To praise God is to recognize that fundamental relationship between ourselves as creatures and God as our creator and our ultimate destiny.

Another approach to prayer is to take a favorite passage of Scripture and slowly meditate upon the meaning of that passage.  We each have favorite passages. Mine are:  “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life;” “Come to me all you who find life burdensome, and I will refresh you;” “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do for me.”

Another approach is the Jesus Prayer, which in its fullest form is:  “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”  It is similar to the prayer:  “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”

There are many other approaches to prayer.

There is the prayer of silence.  Without any thought, word or image, we calmly feel the presence of God within us.

There is the prayer of petition.  Like Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemene for example, we should not hesitate to pray for our needs and the needs of others.  The prayer of petition recognizes again that fundamental relationship between the creator and the creature.

There is the prayer of suffering.  Jesus is the model for this prayer.  Afraid in the Garden of Gethsemane and in pain on the cross, he trusted ever more deeply in the love of his Father.  Yes, Jesus trusted that God would bring him out of the darkness of death into the light of the resurrection.

Almost anything we see or experience can be a pathway or passageway into the presence of God.  All kinds of things that we do in our day-to-day activities can make us aware of God’s presence.  Francis of Assisi saw all creatures as windows or passageways or pathways into the presence of God.

And so during this Lenten season I pray that you will become more aware of God’s presence around you and within you.  We are indeed living temples of God.

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