In my many years I have amassed countless books on prayer. Now I have a Kindle e reader it is so easy to buy more books on prayer, especially in the lockdown. I have just added the 2021 Lent Book “Thy Will Be Done” by Stephen Cherry. It is his reflections on the Our Father. The danger is that I read a lot about prayer but don’t pray. It is like a person who buys many cookbooks but doesn’t cook.
This Lent is a time when we are encouraged to continue our life of prayer. What does this mean? Whoever we are, whatever our commitments, we can pray daily. In primary school we learnt the definition “Prayer is the raising up of the mind and heart to God”. I like the words of St Theresa of Lisieux: “For me, prayer is the surge of the heart; it is a simple turning towards heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”
In the gospel for today Jesus teaches his disciples to pray. He prefaces his words by saying: “your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Stephen Cherry points out that “whatever else prayer might be, “it is neither opportunity to impress others nor one to provide God with information.” I myself use the words of Samuel. “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” Prayer includes listening as well as speaking.
The fourth part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is well worth a read as it lays out the principles of prayer. It gives an extended mediation on the phrases of the Lord’s Prayer. “Jesus does not give us a formula to repeat mechanically. As in every vocal prayer, it is through the Word of God that the Holy Spirit teaches the children of God to pray to their Father.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2766) As another writer put it. “Rather than babbling with many words, it is advisable to sit quietly with a short prayer lovingly repeated. Each line of the Our Father is a perfect prayer.”
I will pray for you as you continue your life of prayer.